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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bill Clinton Speaks Out; War in Iraq; Did He Do It?; Asian Stereotypes; Bible Battle

Aired May 16, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: My exclusive interview with former President Bill Clinton about the environment, Iraq and his wife's campaign.
Also tonight, you've heard the stereotypes about Asian Americans and academic achievement. Tonight, we have the facts, instead.

And testimony in the Phil Spector murder trial of the 1960s music kingmaker uttered the words: I think I killed somebody.

We begin, however, with the former president of the United States. Safe to say, whenever Bill Clinton sits down to talk, the conversation can go in almost any direction. The man is known for knowing something about nearly everything and he's got plenty to talk about. His wife is running for his old office, his party is now running Congress and he, himself, has built a new career that makes his big buck political speaking -- public speaking and high ambition public service.

We talked about his latest effort, a public/private initiative to help stop global warming.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What is the initiative? I mean, I read it's rehabbing office buildings. How does that make a difference?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're going to start with government buildings, with the municipal buildings in the 16 cities. The biggest -- among the biggest cities in the world that are participating. And then we're going to make available the same sorts of things to private buildings, to office buildings. And we're going to basically go in and redo the glass, redo the insulation, redo all the lighting, to get rid of the incandescent bulbs and go to automated climate controls.

And the climate firms that are helping us are willing to give performance guarantees to these buildings so they'll know how much their power bill will go down.

Then we have five big financial institutions committing $1 billion each to finance this and to be paid back by the buildings not with front-end cash, but in the savings from their utility bills.

COOPER: How do you think the current administration -- what kind of a grade would you give them on the environment on their policies? CLINTON: Well, on the environment I wouldn't give them a good grade because they tried to reverse everything I did on -- like, you know, preserving the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forest and the national parks. And a lot of my food safety regulations, they didn't want to go through with. A whole lot of environmental and public health issues they just disagreed with.

But on climate change, President Bush believes in wind energy, believes in solar energy. He's put a lot more money into research.

He's just opposed to reorganizing the market in America by creating a cap on carbon emissions, which would set a price for carbon and would enable companies to trade their credits. That is, if one company could be more efficient than another at a lower price, the other company could in effect pay that company to even beat its targets and then they wouldn't have to do so much.

COOPER: He did say that we're addicted to oil, which is, you know, it's a great headline. And it certainly is a national security issue. But it doesn't seem like the next step has been taken.

CLINTON: And when he was governor, interestingly enough, he offered the requisite subsidies in Texas to make Texas I think now the number one producer of wind power in America.

We have 36 states in America producing wind energy. So I think on the clean energy front, he's -- I disagree with his unwillingness to support the Kyoto climate change limits and even stricter limits and then to create a market for doing that.

But I do think he knows we've got to get off oil for security reasons, for environmental reasons and for economic reasons.

COOPER: I want to ask you about politics a little bit. A recent piece in the "New York Times" described you as a fundraising machine for your wife's campaign, as a master strategist. I think they also said you were sort of a consigliore. What kind of advice do you give?

CLINTON: The story also said a couple of times I tried to pontificate about something going in New York and didn't know what I was talking about, and Hillary told me...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: She told you to get out of the room. Well, I was actually going to ask you about that...

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: She told me...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: The story claims that while preparing for a Senate debate, you were giving too much advice and she basically kind of scooted you out of the room. Is that true? CLINTON: That was back in 2000 actually, when she was nervous about it. We get so nervous at each other's debates. It's very interesting.

COOPER: Really?

CLINTON: Oh, she used to get so nervous that she could hardly bear to come to my debates.

COOPER: Really?

CLINTON: Yes, and it's very interesting because she's very calm when she's on the line. But -- and when I was on the line, I was always calm. But when she is in the line of fire, I get nervous.

I think it's -- you know, it's a husband/wife thing. You know, it's just -- so that was true. I'm just trying to help.

COOPER: I met her for the first time when we did an interview a couple months ago at a hospital. She's very different in person than she appears on television. And I've read that as well. People say they wished the person they meet in person could get out on television more. Do you see that? And is that part of the advice you give?

CLINTON: Well, I think she did very well on television in the South Carolina debate. And I saw her in -- I thought she did well in Selma and I thought she did well when she spoke to the New Hampshire state Democratic dinner.

COOPER: I mean, do you think America knows who she is?

CLINTON: No. But if you look at New York, when we ran in New York, a lot of people think New York's a big Democratic state. New York City's a big Democratic city, but President Bush won two-thirds of our counties against John Kerry in 2004. He won 40 counties, I think, and Senator Kerry won 22. Even though Kerry won the state handsomely.

In those 40 counties that President Bush won, Hillary got re- elected with about 60 percent of the vote because they know her. And I still see people from all these places all the time that say she's the only person that ever did anything for us, what a wonderful person she is. So, I think that she's going through the process in America now that she went through in New York, where the people are getting to know her.

COOPER: Are you surprised by the strength of Barack Obama's campaign?

CLINTON: No. No. Because in the beginning, there was this impression that he was the only one that was really against the president's policy in Iraq, which I don't think is accurate, but it nevertheless had some legs out there.

His voting record and Hillary's are almost identical, I think, on all the relevant issues. And also, he's just a very gifted man. I mean, he's an attractive, compelling charismatic guy who has not been in politics very long, therefore has not had the time to pick up the enemies that you pick up or at least opposition you pick up if you stay around and actually, you know, are in the fray and you're fighting to do things. And I think he's a very -- he's running a great campaign. So I'm not surprised.

COOPER: Iraq, is the war lost?

CLINTON: Well, I don't believe that we have the capacity to stop the Iraqis from fighting each other. Only they have that capacity. We never had that capacity.

COOPER: Do you think that's inevitable that...

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: So if that's the measure of defeat and victory, then we can't win. On the other hand, they've had an election, they've got a government. They've got to take responsibility for themselves and they've got to figure out a way to do this.

I think our presence there has probably minimized -- well, it's maximized death and destruction for Americans and played an enormous role in undermining our -- the readiness of our military and our flexibility to meet some unforeseen challenge. I think that our people are good. They've been brave and good, and I think their presence there has probably led to fewer Iraqis dying and fewer Iraqi refugees.

And so, as we take our presence down as we must -- you know, they're all fighting about this now, but -- we don't have any choice. We've got to bring a substantial number of those troops home.

COOPER: And we're stretched too thin?

CLINTON: Yes, it's stretched way too thin. And you know, if we had a problem today, we'd have to meet it with the Navy and the Air Force. We have naval reserve units doing target practice on their drills now. We have active Navy personnel doing target practice on their drills because we don't have enough ground forces left in the Marine corps and the Army, after our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. So we've got some serious challenges here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Former president Bill Clinton.

Members of that overburdened Army tonight are pushing themselves to the limits of physical endurance. They are doing it to locate three soldiers who disappeared -- three Americans, our troops. During an ambush they disappeared in a part of Iraq known as the Triangle of Death.

CNN's Arwa Damon is the only correspondent with troops on the search. Here's her exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pushing themselves to the limit, some soldiers are collapsing from the oppressive heat. But the hunt continues, defined by long hours and glimmers of hope. They have trudged across miles and miles of fields and farmland, navigated the harsh terrain to avoid the roads and the bombs. They even drained this canal parallel to the attack site to look for clues.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOHN VALLEDOR, U.S. ARMY: Yesterday, our soldiers, those in the brigade, physically walked the canal, and on both sides, to make sure -- you know, make sure that there isn't anything in here related to our missing soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need your help.

DAMON: They have said the same thing hundreds of times since Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any information will help us.

DAMON: Information that leads to the missing soldiers is worth $200,000. And they have been receiving tantalizing tips, but none have panned out. It's a hunt for three men in an area about 330 square miles.

COLONEL MIKE KERSHAW, U.S. ARMY: A piece of U.S. equipment which we think could possibly be from the soldiers that were abducted or -- or could have been just equipment abducted from the site.

DAMON: Nothing is taken for granted or left to chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in here almost every day, so that this is -- this is kind of a -- just -- just covering all the bases. We're out of -- we're just making sure. We're checking every -- every house again.

DAMON (on camera): It's day five in the search for the missing soldiers. These men have been out for about seven, eight hours now. They are both physically and mentally exhausted. But no one is even talking about giving up.

(voice-over): These men have been fighting out here in an area better known as the Triangle of Death for nine months now.

KERSHAW: This sector has historically been one of the most lethal in -- in -- in Iraq. And there are some very capable insurgents out there. And we do not underestimate them.

DAMON: The military doesn't underestimate them, but it is determined to defeat them.

CAPTAIN DAN HURD, U.S. ARMY: All the motivation they need is -- is what they're -- they're going after. You know, we -- we -- we talk about the soldiers. And, you know, they know who -- they know who they're -- they're looking for. They know their names. And that's as -- that's as much motivation as they would ever need. Every time they get tired, they think of that, and -- and then keep going.

DAMON: All these soldiers have sworn to never leave a man behind.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Yusufiyah, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's hope those missing Americans know there are a lot of good people out there looking for them.

Up next, faith and fury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): Praise from the faithful. A public school district approves a bible class for high school students, but critics are firing back with a lawsuit.

DAVID NEWMAN, PLAINTIFF: I think there is potential for an enormous amount of harm.

COOPER: Is the class unconstitutional? You decide.

Plus, uncovering America. Stereotypes of Asian Americans.

YUL KWON, CNN SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR: The perception is that -- especially Asian American men -- are math geeks. They lack social skills. They lack leadership skills. Either that or they're kung fu masters who can kick butt, but they can't speak English.

COOPER: The winner of "Survivor" breaks down the stereotype, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): Unchained melody performed by the Righteous Brothers, produced by Phil Spector.

For court watchers, his murder trial is the only one trial to follow, and it is easy to see why. An eccentric music legend accused of murdering an actress, allegedly shooting her to death in his palatial mansion in the heart of L.A.

With cameras in the courtroom, the case is full of riveting testimony, and some of the most dramatic moments unfolded today.

Dan Simon reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Phil Spector, the man behind pop music's wall of sound can only sit in silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had a gun to my face.

SIMON: As witness after witness...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And smacked me in the side of the head.

SIMON: ... describes him as a violent gun-toting nut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He walked right up to me and held the gun right to my face with just inches between my eyes.

SIMON: The prosecution is relying on these four women. They say a drunken Spector threatened each of them with a gun after they rebuffed his advances.

Dianne Ogden is Spector's former assistant. The two also dated. She testified about a night in 1989 when she tried to leave Spector's house after a party.

DIANNE OGDEN, SPECTOR TRIAL WITNESS: He was screaming at me. He was screaming the "F" word and you're not (EXPLETIVE DELETED) leaving. You're not, you know, it was like I couldn't even understand him. He was not my Phil. He wasn't the man I loved. I mean -- I mean, I cared about this man. And it wasn't him. It was like he was demonic.

SIMON: Each of the women escaped uninjured, but prosecutors say, not in the case of Lana Clarkson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are men good for?

SIMON: Clarkson was a struggling Hollywood actress, appearing in "B" films like "Amazon Women on the Moon." She worked as a hostess at the House of Blues. She met Spector there the first time that February night in 2003 and agreed to have a drink with him at his mansion.

Other than Spector, the last person to see Clarkson alive was this man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he come out alone or was he with somebody?

ADRIANO DESOUZA, SPECTOR TRIAL WITNESS: Miss Lana.

SIMON: Adriano DeSouza was Spector's limo driver and may be the most crucial witness to the case.

Listen to this exchange with the prosecutor.

DeSouza testified he heard a gunshot, and Spector emerged from his house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say?

DESOUZA: He said I think I killed somebody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he directing his comment to you?

DESOUZA: Yes. SIMON: But Spector does not concede he has ever admitted to the killing.

(on camera): The defense claims Clarkson shot herself. They say it's possible it was an accidental suicide.

Regardless, they're going to argue the forensic evidence shows that the gun could only have been fired from Lana Clarkson's hand.

(voice-over): Spector has spoken little publicly since the shooting, but the TV show "Inside Edition" obtained this 2005 video that Spector reportedly intended to post on his Web site.

PHIL SPECTOR, DEFENDANT: I don't know why, when, how or where, in what circumstance she may have taken her own life, whether she planned to or not. It is not my responsibility to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sing it for him once.

SIMON: This is Spector working with John Lennon, a stark reminder of his legendary status. His brilliance, now drowned out by a sensational murder trial.

Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: "COURT TV" Anchor Lisa Bloom has been covering the Spector case from the beginning. I spoke with her earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's take a look at some more of that video he recorded back in 2005. I think in this clip he describes Lana Clarkson and how he couldn't have possibly have shot her.

Let's watch.

SPECTOR: She was 5'11" and she would have been 6'2" with heels on, which she was wearing at time of her death, and that the gun was in a downward position. I am 5'5". It would have been physically impossible for me to have administered the death wound to her in any shape, way or form.

COOPER: Beyond just the bizarreness of the entire spectacle of him doing this, is that a valid argument?

LISA BLOOM, "COURT TV" ANCHOR: In the room where she was shot, by the way, that's where this video is made. A 21-mansion house, he had all those rooms to choose from, he chose that room.

Of course, she's found in a chair, Anderson, slumped down in a chair. So of course, it would have been physically possible for him to have the gun in her mouth and point it up.

COOPER: Let's play another clip. SPECTOR: It's nonsense. They just want to get on "Inside Edition." They just want to testify at the trial. And they just want to make money. Well, here's your chance to make money.

BLOOM: Wow. Wow.

COOPER: What is that? I don't get it. What is he saying?

BLOOM: Well, it's very insulting. He's talking about the 10 women that supposedly went in front of the grand jury and told similar stories. Four have testified at the trial so far.

COOPER: Previous girlfriends.

BLOOM: That they went out on dates with him. When it was time to go home, leave the mansion or leave a hotel room, he pointed a gun at them and said you're not leaving.

One of them in the trial said he attempted to rape her. One of them called the police.

And by the way, none have sold their story or asked for any money, filed a civil suit, nothing.

And what he's doing there is he holds up a check and he says I'll offer you $100,000 if you'll take a lie detector test. Well, that offer was never made publicly, and so of course, none of them ever took him up on it.

COOPER: So bizarre that he made this video. I mean, the whole thing is just so bizarre.

BLOOM: Yes.

COOPER: But in terms of the testimony, the lawyer -- or the chauffer testified that he heard a pow, and he then saw Spector coming out of the house saying I think I killed somebody. It was like 5 a.m. in the morning. That sounds pretty bad.

BLOOM: Holding the gun, by the way. Spector comes running out of the house, holding a gun, saying I think I killed somebody. OK, that gun is later found under Lana Clarkson's left foot. So Phil Spector had to have run back in the house, planted the gun to make it look like she killed herself...

COOPER: If you buy the chauffeur's...

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: If you believe the prosecution's story. And yes, if you believe that the chauffer is telling the truth.

So what the defense argues is, well he's Brazilian. English is his second language. Perhaps he misunderstood. He was asleep in the car, he was awakened, there was a fountain on, maybe he had the radio on and the windows up. Maybe he simply heard it wrong. COOPER: There is this whole sort of seedy underbelly in L.A. which, you know, of these people who sort of -- who didn't quite make it and -- and latch on to a guy like Phil Spector, hoping that somehow they're going to -- he's going to help them in their career.

BLOOM: Right. Well, I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: The whole thing is just so sleazy.

BLOOM: Well, on the flip side of that is Phil Spector, who really hadn't had a hit record for decades, latching on to people who were trying to make it legitimately in the business world.

COOPER: Right, of course.

BLOOM: And so he's out there on a Sunday night. Lana Clarkson was the third woman he went out with on the same night, begging women at 2:30 a.m. at the House of Blues to go home with him. Lana Clarkson finally agrees. She tells the chauffer I'm just going to have one drink. And she may have felt a little bit more comfortable because the driver was there right outside the door the entire time.

I mean, all of her friends -- we've had many of them on my show -- have said she's not the type of person who would have gone home with him, but perhaps she was just hoping for that one break.

COOPER: You guys are covering the trial gavel to gavel?

BLOOM: Gavel to gavel, every day on "COURT TV."

COOPER: Lisa Bloom, thanks.

BLOOM: Thanks, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow, isn't Hollywood glamorous?

Just ahead, a new kind of controversy over bibles in the classroom. Using them as literature, but some say it's a way of sneaking religion into the curriculum. We'll have all sides, ahead.

Also, a CNN special series, "Uncovering America." Tonight, the stereotypes placed on Asian-Americans, especially when it comes to academics, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: This week on CNN as part of our "Uncovering America" series, we're taking a close look at what it means to be an Asian- Pacific American.

Let's start with the label itself. It is deceptively simple. It actually refers to more than 25 different ethnic groups from Burmese and Bangladesh, Chinese and Japanese, and Indian and Vietnamese.

One of our aims tonight is to uncover the amazing diversity behind the label. We're also going to do our best to tackle cultural stereotypes straight on.

As uncomfortable it may be to talk about them, silence doesn't make stereotypes go away. And when it comes to cultural baggage, one of the heaviest for Asians is the "I" word, as in IQ.

Here CNN's Betty Nguyen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crunch time at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final exam is supposed to be on what two days?

NGUYEN: For students like Sid Shreyron (ph), it's game on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to see that letter grade, to see that "A" on my paper, it's a pretty good feeling.

NGUYEN: The kids here are some of the best test takers in the country. Mission San Jose, one of the very best public schools. It's also overwhelmingly Asian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lucy Liu (ph)? Annie Liu (ph)? Thomas Liu (ph)?

NGUYEN: And its success raises a highly controversial question -- are Asian students smarter?

(on camera): So when did you come to this school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1972 I started.

NGUYEN (voice-over): When Principal Stuart Kew came to Mission San Jose, the school was 98 percent white. Now, it's only 20 percent white, and nearly 75 percent Asian because of demographic shifts in the Silicon Valley Community.

Its scores on statewide tests have gone through the roof.

(on camera): What do you think accounts for the high academic achievement at this school?

STUART KEW, PRINCIPAL MISSION SAN JOSE: I think just the changing demographics.

NGUYEN: How so?

KEW: I think that the Asian population, as they became more predominant in this area. The parents come from a system -- they all teach for a test. And that's their biggest thing. NGUYEN (voice-over): Kew says Asian-American students consistently outperform their white classmates on standardized tests, and not just here.

California's top five-ranked public high schools are all majority Asian. Nationally, Asian students lead in terms of overall grade point averages. They outscore their peers on the math portion of the S.A.T.s and are more likely to take math-heavy classes like physics and calculus.

So, those high scores beg the politically incorrect question, are Asians naturally more intelligent?

HAZEL MARKUS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: That's just not on the table. It's not a matter of biology or genetic differences. That we're very clear about.

NGUYEN: Stanford Cultural Psychologist Hazel Markus notes a distinction between intelligence and academic success. Education is particularly prized in most Asian cultures. Academic success, a child's duty to his family.

MARKUS: It's the most important role. It's your job. It's what you are supposed to do, is to bring honor to the family by becoming educated.

NGUYEN: What's more, studies show Asian students take a unique approach to learning, absorbing facts rather than reflexively challenging them.

MARKUS: First comes just making your mind quiet and then taking in the information that's there and organize it, put it together. Later on there can be questioning.

ALVIN ALVAREZ, ASIAN AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: Any time we make broad statements about Asian-Americans being uniformly successful, it misleads the public.

NGUYEN: Dr. Alvin Alvarez says statistics don't tell the whole story and perpetuate the myth of a model minority.

Keep in mind, the Asian-American classification covers people from well over a dozen countries. Not all nationalities achieve the same levels of success here in the United States.

The path of a college-educated immigrant from India or China is very different from that of an asylum-seeking refugee who fled Cambodia or Laos or Vietnam.

The model minority myth renders all those distinctions moot.

As a white student at Mission San Jose, Hannah Raudsep is a minority. She rolls with the pressure, but questions the pressure cooker mentality she sees in some of her Asian-American classmates.

HANNAH RAUDSEP, STUDENT: Their pressure is more of like a fear. Like they're afraid that they're going to disappoint their parents. And like, it's almost like they're not motivated for themselves.

MARKUS: What about Asian-Americans.

NGUYEN: But Hazel Markus calls this a case of cultural confusion.

MARKUS: For Asian students, it doesn't feel like pressure. It feels a bit like scaffolding or wind at their sails. It's like having a team behind you that's rooting for you to do well.

NGUYEN: As for Sid Shreyron (ph), Sid's parents closely monitor his academic progress. They know all about pressure from their own experience in India.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be successful, you had to become an engineer or a doctor.

NGUYEN: And you became an engineer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I became an engineer.

NGUYEN: But here in America, Sid is setting his own goals.

After the last test is graded, he'll pursue his true passion -- music. And then, he hopes, a political science degree from Harvard. His parents vow to support him every step of the way.

Betty Nguyen, CNN, Fremont, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Interesting.

Later on 360, bibles in classrooms. A new battle over that.

And next, more of our special report, "Uncovering America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): They have the top grades. The top test scores. But...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if you were a straight a straight "A" student, even if you were an athlete and class president, it's not good enough if you're Asian. Somehow the bar is higher for you.

COOPER: Are Asian-Americans discriminated against when it comes to college admissions? Both sides of the debate, tonight, on 360.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): We continue now with our focus on Asian- Pacific Americans, part of CNN's "Uncovering America" series. Before the break we looked at the stereotype that many Asian- Americans say they run up against, the notion that it's in their DNA to excel academically.

You might think fair or not, having people assume you're smart would give you an edge. But you're about to meet a young man who says the opposite.

He says, instead of giving young Asians an edge, it actually makes it harder for them to get into their dream colleges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): On paper, Jian Lee looks like an Ivy League college's dream.

JIAN LEE, COLLEGE STUDENT: I had a full score on my S.A.T.s and I was in the top 1 percent of my class.

COOPER: He also has honors in the New Jersey Math and Physics League and community service experience in Costa Rica. Applying to college, Lee thought he'd be a shoe-in at any top school.

Then, Princeton rejected him. Lee was outraged. He said it was not fair and not legal. He claims Asian students are held to a higher standard than white students.

LEE: I think it's pretty clear that Asian-Americans are discriminated against.

COOPER: So what are the facts?

Asian-Americans are just about 5 percent of the population. And yet, they make up around 15 percent to 20 percent of the student body of the nation's elite colleges. Nearly 14 percent of students at Princeton are of Asian dissent. That doesn't seem like discrimination.

But the numbers can be deceiving. Journalist Dan Golden studies the college application process.

DAN GOLDEN, AUTHOR, "THE PRICE OF ADMISSION": Asian-Americans seem to make up about 30 percent of the country's top high school seniors. So if they're 30 percent of the top seniors, why are they only 15 percent of the enrollment at these elite schools?

COOPER: Jian Lee filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. His explosive charge, Princeton holds Asian- American applicants to a higher admission standard that any other racial group. Princeton flatly denies it. But the case has touched a nerve on college campuses from coast to coast.

GENE KIM, COLLEGE STUDENT: Almost everyone I've talked to has in some point in life thought the sentiment that being Asian might actually hurt them in some sense when they are applying to graduate school, when they're applying for undergraduate education. There is a sort of sentiment that they are trying to restrict the number of Asian-Americans.

COOPER: Gene Kim is a senior at the University of California at Berkley.

KIM: It just felt very unfair because you realize that, even if you did your best, even if you were a straight "A" student, even if you were an athlete and class president, it's not good enough if you're Asian. Somehow the bar is higher for you.

COOPER: Kim believes many admission officers see all Asian applicants as the same.

KIM: The Asian nerd, who is very quiet, very obedient, focusing or staying in the library most of the time, studying.

COOPER: John Ryder (ph), a former admissions officer at Stanford, acknowledges Kim's fear isn't entirely unfounded.

JOHN RYDER (ph), FORMER ADMISSIONS OFFICER, STANFORD: We had examples of a guidance counselor saying for an Asian student, Henry is very likable. That's a terrible thing to say. I mean, the teacher thought they were doing the right thing. They thought they were being positive, saying a nice thing about this kid. But it's actually very stereotypical.

COOPER: At Berkley, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Walter Robinson insists he's never seen evidence of Asian quotas.

WALTER ROBINSON, BERKELEY DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS: In my last 15 years of being involved in the admissions work, I can't tell you of any instance where I am aware of any institutions that carry out that practice, either implied or explicitly.

COOPER: But for Jian Lee, Berkeley is concrete proof that if unspoken quotas didn't exist, you'd see a lot more Asians on college campuses. Here's why.

In 1996, California banned race-based decision making in all public institutions, including the university system.

With race out of the admissions equation, the number of Asian- Americans enrolled at Berkeley soared from just over 35 percent of the student body in 1997 to nearly 43 percent today.

And their numbers continue to climb. In fact, more Asians attend Berkeley than any other racial group, including whites.

As for Jian Lee, he's waiting for the Department of Education to rule in his complaint against Princeton. For now, final exams are his top priority. He is, after all, just wrapping up his freshman year at Yale.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Well, just ahead, your e-mails on the issue. Also he quit his Silicon Valley job, defied his family, and went on a reality show to shatter stereotypes of the Asian nerd. He sure did, and then some. We'll talk to Yul Kwon, winner of "Survivor," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Last year, Yul Kwon became the first Asian-American champion on "Survivor." He's the son of South Korean immigrants. And by the time he auditioned for "Survivor," he had earned degrees from Stanford and Yale. We talked recently.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You went to school to be an attorney. What kind of pressure is there in many Asian-American communities to go to law school, to be a doctor, to become sort of a traditional profession like that.

YUL KWON, CNN SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR: There's a huge amount of pressure. In my case, actually, I didn't go to school to become a lawyer initially. My dad wanted me to get a Ph.D. in something really hard like math or physics. And he was actually very disappointed when I didn't go for that and went to law school instead.

COOPER: Are you serious? He was disappointed when you became a lawyer?

KWON: Yes. You know, my parents came from a very different culture. So they came -- they grew up in the aftermath of the Korean War. And for them, academics was a key to getting out of poverty and to having success.

So when they immigrated to this country, you know, they basically want me and my brother to study all the time. And I think my parents were concerned to some extent that we might face discrimination in this country. So they didn't want us to pursue a career path where our success would be dictated by our social skills. They wanted us to do something where we could produce objective, quantifiable results, like science or engineering.

COOPER: How did your parents, and many parents from that generation, define success?

KWON: I think success is defined monetarily, but in a lot of Asian cultures social status is also very key.

COOPER: And what sort of professions were taboo?

KWON: Well, you know, my parents always taught me that smart kids got Ph.D.s and became professors; dumb kids dropped out of school and became politicians; or worse yet, actors. So in my case, you know, when I went to law school and told them I was going to get involved in political activism, they were mortified. And when I told them I was going to go on a reality show, my dad almost had a heart attack. COOPER: Now that you have won "Survivor," does he feel differently?

KWON: He does. He does. I mean, he was concerned because he thought I was throwing away my career and all the schooling. He didn't understand why he would come to this country to give opportunities for me and my brother and then flush it down the toilet.

But I think for my father, you know, seeing me on the show and seeing what kind of person I was and seeing a side of me that he hadn't seen before when I was growing up really opened his eyes. And so it's really brought us closer together.

COOPER: How do you carry forward the values that you were raised with? I mean, when you have a child, will you want them to be a lawyer or to be a doctor? I mean...

KWON: No. I think, you know, my parents wanted the best for us, right? So, but what I try to remind them is that they're living in a different world now. We're not living in this other society where your success will be guaranteed if you did well in school.

In this country, I mean, it's important to study hard and to have academics, but how far you get in life often depends on the connections that you have and the relationships you have with people.

And that's why, you know, a lot of Asian-Americans hit the glass ceiling, because they focus on their functional areas, but they don't develop the broader network they need to get ahead.

COOPER: You talked, when you were on "Survivor," about trying to be out in the public eye, to kind of change stereotypes of Asian- Americans. What do you think those stereotypes are?

KWON: I think the perception is that Asian-Americans -- especially Asian-American men -- are math geeks. They lack social skills. They lack leadership skills. Either that or they're kung fu masters, you know, who can kick butt, but they can't speak English.

COOPER: And how do you go about changing that?

KWON: Well, I think the way to change it is to show people that you're an individual. And that's why I went on a reality show.

The great thing about a reality show is that unlike scripted shows, you know, even though you might be cast as a stereotype, in which case I think I was, you don't have to act according to a script. You can be whoever you want. You can show people that you can be smart and athletic and be articulate all at the same time.

COOPER: It's got to be really devastating. I mean, it's got to be really tough to just be a normal Asian-American kid growing up with these kind of heavy burdens placed on you.

KWON: yes, absolutely. I think because of the model minority myth, a lot of kids feel that they have to live up to a standard that's very difficult to actually obtain.

And so, it's exactly the dilemma that I think a lot of kids face, which is like, hey, I'm supposed to be smart, everyone expects me to be smart, but if I'm not doing well in school, then what am I?

COOPER: Yul Kwon, it's fascinating. Appreciate you being on the program.

KWON: Absolutely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There's a lot of reaction to our "Uncovering America" series on the blog tonight.

Linda, in Torrance, California, writes, "My daughter is sometimes the only non-Asian in class. The Asian American kids really have a uniquely pervasive burden to achieve. Many are punished if they do not get A's. And a few may actually be hit. It's depressing to watch."

Kelly, in Los Angeles, has this to say, "Testing and getting into the right schools in order to get the best jobs lends itself to incredible emotional stress for young Asians, and in a very high number of instances leads to teen and young adult suicide in many Asian cultures."

From Rena, in Phoenix, "There is nothing wrong with encouraging and taking an interest in the lives of your children. To paint the majority of Asian children as oppressed by family pressures is just wrong."

And from Ken, in San Diego, "Being the best you can be is a good thing, and I do enjoy seeing my framed Ivy League diploma hanging on my wall and watching my stock and real estate portfolio blossom."

Interesting.

As always, to weigh in on this or any other subject, just go to CNN.com/360 and follow the links.

Up next, the battle over bible class in public schools.

Plus, a wildfire raging. See why the National Guard is being blamed, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In tonight's "America Divided" segment, the battle over bibles in the classroom -- public classrooms.

A "CBS News" poll taken last year found that 46 percent of Americans say teaching the bible in public schools would violate the separation of church and state, though 64 percent say it should be allowed if it's taught solely as literature.

In a Texas school district, that is what's being done. The school board has approved a bible literature course.

Today, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of eight parents who say the class crosses the line.

CNN's David Mattingly reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it happened, the streets of Odessa, Texas, came alive with praise.

The faithful gave thanks to God and believers celebrated victory over evil when the county school board approved a class using the King James bible as a textbook.

(on camera): What are you teaching these students?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The focus there is just the bible. Historically, who wrote the bible. Who are the characters. What is the content of it? What did they face?

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Superintendent Wendell Solis (ph) endorsed the elective high school class that uses a controversial curriculum created by a group called the National Council on Bible Curriculum and Public Schools, which claims to include a variety of viewpoints.

MICHAEL JOHNSON, BIBLE STUDIES ADVOCATE: It does, in my view, give equal treatment, fair treatment, to all of the Judeo-Christian perspectives. And that's -- that's what a bible curriculum should do.

MARK CHANCEY, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, SMU: What this curriculum is trying to do is foster the notion that the American identity is distinctively Christian. By distinctively Christian, I'm referring to the religious right.

MATTINGLY: Mark Chancey is a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, who challenges the national council's claim of fair treatment.

He shows one example in the class handbook where a crucifix is used to represent a letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

CHANCEY: That's Jesus hanging on the cross. I don't know of any scholar of Hebrew that would argue that a crucifix is the best way to represent the silent T.

MATTINGLY: Chancey argues the use of the King James bible shows a bias, as it is not accepted by Catholic and some Protestant denominations, not to mention other religions.

He also says, study materials distort the bible's role in American history. To support a conservative agenda, linking the bible to the founding of the country.

(on camera): Thomas Jefferson. The bible is the source of liberty.

(voice-over): This section attributes positive comments about God and the bible to several founding fathers. But Chancey says this quote doesn't accurately reflect Jefferson's views because he didn't believe in miracles or that Jesus was the son of God.

CHANCEY: Thomas Jefferson was so interested in the gospels that he took a pair of scissors and cut out all of the miracles and all of Jesus's claims to be God. It's called the Jefferson bible. We don't get any discussion of that in this curriculum.

MATTINGLY: Critics say students in the Odessa class are taught that the founding fathers never intended to have a separation of church and state.

DAVID BARTON, FOUNDER, WALLBUILDERS: The founding fathers were very specific. They did not want any separation of religious values or religious principles from public life.

MATTINGLY: This video tells students a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and violent crime is linked to the restriction of public religious expression by federal courts.

(on camera): Is there harm being done in these classrooms?

DAVID NEWMAN, PLAINTIFF: I think there is a potential for an enormous amount of harm.

MATTINGLY: David Newman is among eight parents, Christians and non-Christians, now suing Odessa schools in federal court, alleging the course is unconstitutional. The suit claims the course teaches students a literal interpretation of the bible, while ignoring or dismissing other points of view.

(on camera): Are you concerned that students going into this class are going to come out thinking that the one God is a Christian god?

NEWMAN: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And an American god?

NEWMAN: Yes. That -- that America is a Christian nation.

MATTINGLY: The school board says it will not debate the points of the lawsuit publicly. But the superintendent did tell us previously that he believed that the course was being taught legally and that teachers were properly trained not to promote one point of view over the other.

(voice-over): In one year, only 84 students took the elective class. But the national council claims its curriculum has been used by 382 districts in 37 states, all of them now with eyes on Odessa.

David Mattingly, CNN, Odessa, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that debate, of course, is far from over.

No surprise, really, the bible is the best-selling book of all time. Here's the raw data on the top five.

More than 6 billion copies of the holy bible have been sold. Second most popular book is quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, with 900 million copies. Third, the American Spelling Book by Noah Webster, 100 million copies are out there. That's followed by the 2003 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records and the World Almanac and Book of Facts.

Still to come, a forest in flames. Thousands of acres scorched. And would you believe the National Guard may have started it?

Erica Hill has that story, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Erica Hill joins us now with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a massive forest fire in New Jersey may have been caused by the National Guard. The Guard says a flare dropped from an F-16 during a training exercise yesterday could have sparked that blaze which has now scorched more than 13,500 acres. The guard says the flares normally burn out before hitting the ground, but apparently that didn't happen.

The oldest daughter of Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr. has died. The family of Yolanda King says the 51-year-old may have succumbed to a heart problem, but they do not know the official cause of death at this time. King was an actress, author and producer and had followed in her father's footsteps as a civil rights activist.

On Wall Street, another record for the Dow, up 103 points to close at 13487. The S&P and NASDAQ also closed up.

Amazon.com geared up for a battle with Apple's iTunes. The online retailing giant will launch a digital music store with millions of songs later this year. It says users will be able to play those tunes on any device, including Apple's popular iPod.

And in turkey, green peace preparing for a flood. Environmental activists hoping to make a statement about global climate change are building a replica of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat, where it supposedly landed after the great flood described in the bible. The finished ark will be revealed at the end of the month. No word on whether they are seeking two of every animal, though, to fill it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Oh. What are they going to do with the ark? Just enjoy it?

HILL: Who wouldn't enjoy a nice ark?

COOPER: You know what? They don't make ark's like they used to.

HILL: Yes, what we need is a nice ark.

COOPER: What we need is a good ark.

Well, I don't know -- who is that? Are we doing Larry King there or something?

HILL: It might be Larry King.

COOPER: I don't know. All right. Erica, thanks.

HILL: Lou Dobbs will be tomorrow night.

COOPER: OK.

That will be something.

Don't miss the day's headlines or the 360 daily podcast. You don't need an iPod. You can watch it on your computer at CNN.com/AC360podcast or go to iTunes, where it is a top download.

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For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is coming up next.

Here, in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up.

And I'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for watching.

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