Return to Transcripts main page


"Top Gun" Director Dies; Interview with Christine O'Donnell; Alleged Bike Thief Busted; Spraying for West Nile Virus Continues in Texas; School Test Cheating More Widespread than Previously Thought; Stopping Teacher Test Tampering; Melky Cabrera Web Site Scam

Aired August 20, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is something that's been developing overnight. A tragedy in Hollywood. Blockbuster movie director Tony Scott, known for films like "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder", jumps to his death from a California bridge. This morning, we're talking to some of his colleagues around Hollywood.

Also, another developing story -- terror at the racetrack. A race car crashes into the crowd at the Missouri state fair, injuring several fans. It happened late last night. We'll tell you the status of those injuries.

And, looking for trouble. Former Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell will join us. She's planning a so-called troublemaker fest during the Republican National Convention.

In addition to Ms. O'Donnell, we're also talking to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. He's going to join us live. And "Sparkle" actress Tamela Mann will stop by.

It's Monday, August 20th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning, Ben Smith is editor in chief of "BuzzFeed," easy for me to say, "BuzzFeed".

Celeste Headlee is with us. She's the anchor of "Your Vote 2012" on PBS World Channel.

Will Cain is with us, columnist for

John Berman is bringing us the news this morning.

Nice to have everybody with us. I appreciate it.

I realized when I said the date, it's my brother's birthday. I have to call him after the show. WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, why don't you say it right now?

O'BRIEN: Happy birthday, Tony. Consider this your phone call.

Moving on, a developing story which is truly a tragedy, this news out of Hollywood. Do you hear this news out of Hollywood?

The famed director, Tony Scott. He's the brother of Ridley Scott, known for blockbusters like "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder" and "Beverly Hills Cop 2", has committed suicide.

We want to get right to Christine Romans for an update on that story -- Christine.


Hollywood is shocked by this news. The L.A. County coroner's office is treating the case as a suicide, saying Tony Scott jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge yesterday in San Pedro, California.

Now, the coroner's office is saying a passerby actually saw him jump and called 911. Scott's death took the entertainment industry and insiders by total surprise.


JEANNE WOLF, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: We use the word shocking all the time when we hear about these deaths, but to think of Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott, one of the most prominent and successful directors we have, jumping off a bridge is almost impossible to contemplate.


ROMANS: In addition to the blockbusters like "Top Gun" and "Crimson Tide", Scott was also a producer of a number of films with his brother, Ridley Scott, including this summer's "Prometheus." They've also worked together, Soledad, on TV shows like CBS' "The Good Wife." Their next collaboration is a creepy medical miniseries called "Coma" and that's set to premiere next month on A&E.

According to "Box Office Mojo," Scott's movies as director and producer grossed more than $1.6 billion in theaters. The sudden death of the filmmaker has hit Hollywood hard. Celebrities are mourning his death on Twitter, including the director Ron Howard tweeting, "No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day."

And from Director Adam Shankman, quote, "My heart stopped when I heard of the tragic death of one of our most inspiring directors, Tony Scott. Rest in peace, Tony. You will be missed so."

Tony Scott was 68 years old, Soledad. We're talking to Roger Friedman earlier this and the question is, why, Christine? And I'm not sure it's going to be answered anytime soon. Everything he touched did well. He was wildly successful. ROMANS: He had a lot of projects still going on. That's why a lot of people are asking why. He had a lot of things still going on.

O'BRIEN: Yes, really. All right. Christine, thank you.

John Berman has got a look at some other stories making news this morning.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey. Thanks, Soledad.

And new overnight -- a passenger in custody after a JetBlue flight had to be diverted to Denver. Flight 677 left Kennedy airport with 150 passengers onboard. The plane was met by FBI agents and Denver police when it landed about 11:30 local time. Charges are pending. And no other details about this incident have been released.

New video this morning of a startling race car crash in Missouri. Five spectators were hurt in this including two seriously when that race car crashed. It was at the Missouri state fair. Police say they were watching this race near the pit when the driver lost control on the track and he crashed into them in the stands there.

The battle of the badges races which featured old police cars. Those races were canceled for the rest of the night.

Another developing story, scary moments for dozens of passengers onboard a sightseeing vessel in Glacier Bay, Alaska. The boat ran aground and began taking on water. "Reuters" reports 76 people had to be rescued. No serious injuries. And the coast guard is investigating that accident.

Britain's Prince Philip, he is out of hospital this morning. The 91- year-old duke of Edinburgh was released after spending five days for treatment of a bladder infection. This is his third hospital stay in the past eight months. The prince had to miss part of the queen's diamond jubilee celebration marking 60 years on the throne because of his poor health.

But he's out this morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank goodness. Everyone has been watching that closely.

Thank you, John. Appreciate that.

This morning, expecting in little under two hours, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be together again after a week apart on the campaign trail. They're going to be hosting a town hall in New Hampshire at the campus of St. Anselm College, after spending the week trying to sell their Medicare plan. That included Paul Ryan bringing his 78- year-old mom to a campaign stop in Florida on Saturday.

President Obama is leaving New Hampshire before Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan arrive. His campaign is still facing some attacks over the comments the vice president, Joe Biden, made last Wednesday which suggested that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would put audience members, quote, "back in chains."

All that brings us to Christine O'Donnell -- she's a former Republican Senate candidate from Delaware. She is organizing a troublemaker fest during the Republican National Convention. It's aimed at young voters.

It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning.

Why do you call it a troublemaker fest?


O'BRIEN: I mean, why --


O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean, I can kind of guess but would love to hear why you call it a troublemaker fest.

O'DONNELL: Well, here's the thing -- that's a great question. In the '60s young people, young radicals were called the troublemakers and they were challenging the policies of the establishment. And that's exactly what we see happening here.

Throughout, you know, my campaign and the years following, I've been around so many young people who are genuine troublemakers who are challenging the establishment. However, the ironic thing is the roles have reversed. These young people are the ones who are actively championing the principles of a free market and it's the government who's championing Marxism.

So in that same spirit of troublemaking, we're leading and mobilizing young people who have the most at stake in this e election to stand up and let their voices be heard and to educate their peers.

O'BRIEN: As you well know, there are lots of people who are going to disagree with you on the Marxism comment. But let's talk more about the young people that you are talking about.

You have to worry when you look at some of the polling that they're not inspired. For example --


O'BRIEN: -- if you look at the definitely likely to vote in the age group that you're interested in, 18 to 29 years old, 78 percent back in -- sorry, 81 percent back in 2004, 78 percent by 2008, down to 58 percent now in 2012. That number has to concern you.

Or even if you look at your own Tea Party, pretty small percentage is in this demo that you're looking for, 7 percent in that 18 to 29 year range. 75 percent are 45 and older.

And, finally, if you look at the numbers when they are interested in voting, who lean for President Obama, or voting for President Obama or leaning for President Obama, 73 percent and look at Mitt Romney or lean Romney that's 25 percent. I have to imagine all those statistics --


O'BRIEN: -- are going to be concerning for you.

O'DONNELL: They are alarming. You are right, Soledad, to bring that up and that's why we're doing this, because in this election cycle you hear all these stats and figures that policy wonks like me love, you know, when you hear I don't love the stats, I don't like the news that's coming from them. But we feed on this stuff.

You know, the debt to GDP ratio hit 100 percent. But the young people, they hear that and they say, you know, what does that mean? What's in it for me?

And we need to translate that for them. What that means when your debt to GDP ratio hits 100 percent is that the economy could completely collapses and while that may not mean anything to you right now, when you start buy a home, when you start to plan for your own child's college, these opportunities aren't going to be there for you.

And the other thing, you're right, a lot of people would disagree with me to say when they hear these I believe Marxist sound bites coming from our own president.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think they're Marxist? Why do you say that? You just kind of throw the word socialist and Marxist around that are not necessarily, I think, anchored in definitions of socialism and Marxism. So give me the definition.

O'DONNELL: Well, they absolutely are. But let me -- I'll get to that but let me say what we're trying to do at this troublemaker fest is kicking off the whole week with the first ever Tea Party versus Occupy Wall Street debate where people from that side of the movement get to pick their own panelists, pick their own questions, and we are jointly working together to present both sides of the movement to address things like that.

And I would say they're Marxist because of the things that you hear coming from him about share the wealth, economic equality -- and these sound bites might sound good and noble on the surface, but the problem is there's quantifiable data that prove that they simply don't work and we're a free market economy that's supposed to empower the individual, let each person use their gifts, use the rewards to create a better life for themselves instead of what Barack Obama is posing, a tax code that punishes hard work, a tax code that reduces everybody to exactly the same.

O'BRIEN: There's so much to hop in on here so I'll do that. So you're a policy wonk now? When did that happen?

O'DONNELL: Well, I've been involved in politics for 20 years. That's what got me involved in this --

O'BRIEN: Policy wonk. O'DONNELL: That's what got me -- policy junkie, political junkie, we read these reports. We read, you know, when people say which person is going to destroy Medicare worse than the other, but most people don't, especially the young people, and that is why they're so apathetic. That's why those statistics are so alarming.

And what I want to do, my vision, especially for the Tea Party versus Occupy debate, is for each side to present their message to the young people and then say you pick, because what voters are going to face this e election cycle is a stark contrast, depending on the outcome.

O'BRIEN: So let me ask you about the Tea Party versus Occupy thing. There's some controversy with it? Someone who is now saying it was an idea that was stolen, you took his idea and you kind of ran with the ball. Will Cain, am I right about that?

CAIN: There's a story up today on the Web site that I work for, it's coming out today, on that suggests this idea, this concept, Occupy versus Tea Party was one that wasn't Christine O'Donnell's and she has turned --

O'DONNELL: That's not true.

CAIN: -- sold that to Al Gore's Current TV. It's a story that's out there, Ms. O'Donnell.

O'DONNELL: And it's a shame. It's a shame because this gentleman is putting out there is flat out lying and "The Young Turks" that I'm working with will tell you we've been working together for months and it was actually Lauren Windsor with the "Young Turks" idea. She bumped into a friend of mine back in February, and they were talking at a bar after a rally. You know, wouldn't it be great?

O'BRIEN: Do you think it will go to lawsuit? As you describe, it sounds messy.

O'DONNELL: It shouldn't. The guy has no weight. Here is the bottom line. You can't trademark a movement. And I think this it guy is a publicity hound.

O'BRIEN: You can trademark a TV show idea, though, right?

O'DONNELL: This isn't a TV show. It's a debate. It's a debate.

It's a shame. It's a shame and, again, this is one time when the "Young Turks" and I will stand in agreement that we've been working on this together for months. I've had the venue reserved for months. It's been on the convention calendar for months.

I mean, since we planned it. It was one of the first things we put on the calendar and we've been organizing behind the scenes before we release d it. I sent out a press release to my supporters probably about two months ago. I don't know the exact date but it's absolutely absurd.

And the same man who put this out is the man who when I tried to reach out to him and have a discussion about how we might be able to work together because the idea of getting both sides of our message -- you know, the Occupy and Tea Party out there to voters is important, he swore at me, he used the "F" word, he raised his voice. This is not a rational human being.

O'BRIEN: When was that?

O'DONNELL: This was a couple nights ago. We had our team and the Young Turks both on this conference call, and he jumped in uninvited. He heard about the conference call, jumped in uninvited, started swearing is at all of us. It's a shame. It's a publicity stunt.

It's a shame we're talking about that --

O'BRIEN: Covering a lot of ground. I think we covered a lot of ground. Christine O'Donnell, nice to talk to you. We will see you when we are in Tampa --

O'DONNELL: Likewise.

O'BRIEN: -- because we will be at the RNC. We look forward to it. Thanks for being with us.

CAIN: The aptly named troublemakers.


Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. A man goes the distance to reclaim his stolen bike. Here's a little clip of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is my bicycle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I would like you to apologize.


O'BRIEN: That's never good when someone says this is my bicycle, i.e., you stole it. We're going to tell you how he set up an elaborate sting operation and was able to get his bike back.

Plus, a 73-year-old man in Alabama is fighting city hall to keep his late wife buried in the front yard. I have to tell you, I see all your faces on that one, it's our tough call this morning. I support this guy.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment. I know.


O'BRIEN: An alleged bicycle thief was caught red-handed in a very elaborate sting operation by the victim who then caught it all on tape. Portland native, Jake Gillum had his $2,500 bike stolen earlier this month, turned up in a Seattle Craigslist ad. So, he and his friends hatched this elaborate plan.

They created a fake online persona and then traveled 160 miles to confront the alleged thief in person, film the whole thing. This is what it sounded like.


JAKE GILLUM, FILMED CONFRONTATION WITH ALLEGED BIKE THIEF: Here's the deal. I live in Portland and you stole my bicycle. And this is my bicycle.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what are you saying?

GILLUM: Yes, I would like you to apologize.


GILLUM: For stealing my bicycle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bought this bike off Craigslist.

GILLUM: No. No, you're under citizen's arrest. Stop right now.


O'BRIEN: Oh. Citizen's arrest didn't seem to work. After he alerted police, he chased the suspect down on his stolen, now recovered, bike. Authorities arrived on the scene. The guy was arrested, charged with trafficking in stolen property. And the three vigilantes posted there YouTube -- their video on YouTube and got a million views in just five days. Take a look.


GILLUM: Today is a good day. Today is a good day.


O'BRIEN: He's got his soda. He's got his bike. Jake Gillum is happy. Nice to see you, Jake. He's with his friend, Shannon Hardy (ph), who helped shoot all of that. He was the cameraman. Gentlemen, nice to see you both. So, I got to ask you, Jake. Were you crazy to go confront somebody who, you know, at least on the surface seemed to be a criminal?

GILLUM: I don't think we were crazy, maybe a little bit brave and pretty confident in our abilities. We had a couple of friends waiting close by, and Shannon here was one of those guys.

O'BRIEN: Talk to me a little bit about how the sting went down, because you created this online persona as if the person that you were pretending to be lived in Seattle so wouldn't, you know, flag him that you were coming in from out of town, and then you drove all that way. So, how did it go down when you first confronted that guy?

GILLUM: Well, I had my two friends waiting in the car close by, and our plan initially was just to have me sit there and ask him questions about the bike and take it for test rides until the police showed up. And that just took a long time. So, I just basically had to talk to the guy for about 40 minutes.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness.

GILLUM: And, he became nervous and I just kind of changed the plan. I told him that I was, indeed, going to buy the bike, and we shook hands and told him I was going to go inside of a nearby bank and get $1,000 for him. And when I went into the bank, I told the teller what was going down, and the teller was good enough to call security.

And at that time, I just texted my friends and told them to get ready to start filming and to get ready for the confrontation.

O'BRIEN: So, what was it like? I mean, I can't tell where the camera is, Shannon, in all of this. He had no idea that you were shooting or how did you work that?

SHANNON HARDY (PH), FRIEND OF JAKE GILLUM: Well, when you see me initially just kind of holding my phone up in his face there is when I just started filming him. And, my friends at the time were kind of approaching from behind and that's where you kind of see those other two shots of the confrontation when he runs away.


HARDY: He didn't really have any idea I was coming.

CAIN: Hey, Jake. This is Will Cain. Let me ask you this. You have to delay this guy for something like 40 minutes while you're waiting for the police to show up. You go inside the bank and ask the tellers to help you out to get the police to come. But when you come out, they're still not there, right? I mean, there's video of you chasing this guy after you warn him police are on the way. How did that shake out? You had to chase this guy down?

GILLUM: Yes, I had to chase him down. We had three goals with this whole thing. One was that, we were all going to get home safe and keep it non-violent. The second goal was to get my bike back, and once we had that down, our third goal was to get the guy arrested because we knew he was committing a felony, and it was our goal to put him in jail.

CAIN: So, did you catch him or the police catch him?

GILLUM: The police were the ones that actually detained him. I just kind of followed him on my bike, and he ran across this little four- lane highway and I just started following behind him. As soon as he heard the sirens, though, he took off and the police chased him down.

O'BRIEN: You said you wanted an apology. Did he ever apologize? GILLUM: No, I don't think he's that big of a person. He's still denying that he stole it. He's kind of claiming that he bought it on Craigslist and that he didn't know it was stolen. I think he's kind of surprised to see that he did admit on camera that he knew the bike was stolen.

O'BRIEN: You know what they say, maybe admitting that on camera was going to be problematic for him and his lawyer. Jake Gillum and Shannon Hardy (ph), thanks for talking with us, guys. Congratulations.

GILLUM: Yes, you're welcome.

O'BRIEN: We like your web movie. Be careful the next time you do that, please. I'm glad that it ended well, though.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, an Alabama man is fighting to keep the remains of his late wife right where he dug her grave, which is in the front yard of their home. Should it be allowed? Will Cain is shaking his head no, but it's today's "Tough Call."

Don't forget, you can follow us on CNN live on your computer and mobile phone while you're at work. Go to


O'BRIEN: Our "Tough Call" this morning, an Alabama widower locked in a legal battle over the right to keep his late wife's remains buried in his front yard. His name is James Davis (ph), and he buried Patsy Ruth Davis (ph) a few feet from their front porch on her death in 2009.

The state health department says burial plots are allowed on private property, but city officials in Stevenson has sued to have her disinterred, dug up, because he lives on the main road through town. The county judge agreed with them, but it's all headed to an appellate court. So, Patsy will stay put at least for now.

So, "Tough Call," because I support this -- first of all, if you go through many parts of this country, people have cemeteries, entire, giant cemeteries, in their front yards. That's how people used to bury people. I just --


O'BRIEN: I don't think there's going to be some mad rush for everybody to bury somebody in their front yard. And I think here's a guy --

HEADLEE: He's in a downtown area.

O'BRIEN: Of Stevenson.

HEADLEE: But still -- look, we don't live in that city. The city officials --

O'BRIEN: Its flowers. Look, this is her gravesite.

HEADLEE: They should be allowed to have some control -- they should be allowed in their own city to have some kind of control over something which is a public health issue when you get down to --

O'BRIEN: It's not a public health issue.

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: You could definitely see this as like the next Brooklyn kind of our ties (ph) all trend, right? I mean, they let them get away -



JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Always brings you back to Brooklyn. Always about Brooklyn.

SMITH: First, the homemade beer and then --

HEADLEE: No, I don't think so.

CAIN: I'm with Soledad. This guy should be able to do it. It is not a public health issue. That was clear. They said you're allowed to bury people in your front or backyard.

O'BRIEN: Why would you say public health risk?

HEADLEE: Well, I mean, again, I just don't want to --

O'BRIEN: You're grossed out. That's what it is.

HEADLEE: I'm not grossed out.


HEADLEE: He's not in the middle of the country. This isn't the 1800s anymore. I understand it's an established tradition, but I just don't want to second-guess the courts or the city officials who have more information --

CAIN: -- not second-guess bureaucracy.

O'BRIEN: I totally disagree. I think, hey, a beautiful spot, flowers, nice gravestone. Stevenson, it doesn't look like -- look --

HEADLEE: How can you tell from that picture?

O'BRIEN: I can't.

CAIN: I must say, from that picture right there defines that concept a picture says a thousand words.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Will Cain and I are in agreement. Kumbaya, Will Cain.

CAIN: Yes. O'BRIEN: Today you and I together.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT the biggest spike of West Nile virus. Can you believe that? It says 2004 (ph), the 26th victim died yesterday. One of the hardest hit areas is Texas. We're going to talk to the mayor of Dallas about what that city is doing to kind of keep their citizens safe.

And then caught on tape, five water spouts all at the same time on Lake Michigan. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. In just a few minutes we're going to bring you a live update from Texas on the aerial assault on mosquitos that carry the West Nile virus. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will be our guest just ahead. First to John Berman who has a look at the day's top stories. Good morning again.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Hollywood is waking up this morning to some stunning news. The director of "Top Gun" Tony Scott, the director, apparently killed himself. The L.A. county coroner's office treating the case as a suicide saying he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge yesterday morning in San Pedro, California. Scott directed many blockbusters including "top gun" and "crimson tide" and a number of films with his brother, Ridley. Tony Scott just 68 years old.

And caught on tape, a terrifying race car crash in Missouri. Five spectators were hurt including would seriously when this race car crashed into the Missouri state fair. Police say the people in the stands were watching a charity race in the pit area when the driver lost control, left the track, and crashed into them. The battle of the badges races which featured old police cars were canceled for the rest of the night.

Another story developing this morning, the coast guard looking for answers after 76 people had to be rescued off the coast of Alaska when their sightseeing vessel ran aground in Glacier Bay. Officials tell Reuters passengers were transferred to a cruise ship after their boat began taking on waters. No injuries reported, but that had to be one scary sightseeing trip, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: John, thank you very much. Weather is slowing down the battle against an epidemic of West Nile in Dallas. The deadly outbreak has claimed the lives of 26 people nationwide so far this summer. Dallas is declaring a state of emergency. The latest challenge came in the form of rain. Rain grounded some spray planes and officials spoke about that on Saturday.


ZACHARY THOMPSON, DIRECTOR, DALLAS COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We think that the aerial perspective as well as the ground approach is working. Of course with weather being a factor, either way we hope we get good weather but I think between the two effectively we'll be able to address the West Nile virus outbreak here in Dallas County.


O'BRIEN: The spraying resumed last night over Dallas county and with us now is Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

MAYOR MIKE RAWLINGS, DALLAS: Good of you to have me.

O'BRIEN: Spraying because of that weather, we were just talking about, you worry about that lost time or are you going to be able to make up for it?

RAWLINGS: I think we are. Last night we were able to get the whole area covered that we wanted to. We had been delayed a couple of nights, had done spraying. We have four planes up and we were able to cover all the areas we targeted. Tonight we go back at it. We have a fifth plane and by that time we should have everybody done this time tomorrow morning twice. So, meanwhile, we're continuing to work on standing water.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you about that. The rain brought more standing water, right, so there's another problem right there.

RAWLINGS: Right, right. And that's one of the big things because that's a house by house, block by block issue, so we're asking residents to make sure there's no standing water. If there's some big ponds they can't get to, to call us. We'll come out there and spray it with larvae-cide. But we're the epicenter of the outbreak, as you said, and we have to take this seriously.

O'BRIEN: A guy wrote a letter to the Dallas morning news and his position was essentially that by doing this spraying, you are trying to "kill an ant with an assault rifle." He wrote "Dallas County has a population of 2,240,000. There have been 210 cases of West Nile. That cyphers out to a penetration rate of a minuscule .000094 percent yet our learned officials called it a major public health crisis and trotted out the aerial spraying campaign." What would you answer to him?

RAWLINGS: Well, I would say, first of all, the science is behind this. Second of all, we're talking about millions of ants not just one. We have to do it efficiently, and li and listened to the EPA, a very conservative organization. The CDC says this is the right way to do it. Our state officials do. We have to get every crack and crevice so we can't just go in every neighborhood and do it hand-to- hand combat. That's why I think this approach is the most effective. We're getting results back, initial results look very positive. We'll get the final results back today to show folks this, in fact, is the right way to do it.

O'BRIEN: Mike Rawlings is the mayor of Dallas, Texas. Thank you for your time. RAWLINGS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT new evidence this morning that suspected cheating on state tests in Philadelphia schools is far are worse than they originally thought. Is it, in fact, the tip of the iceberg? We'll take a look.

And from the movie "Sparkle" Tamela Mann stops by. She says what it was like to work with Whitney Houston on her last film. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: A troubling story to share with you out of Philadelphia that should concern anybody who is a parent. There's new evidence that cheating in schools might be far worse than was previously reported there. In all 53 schools being investigated one in five of all district schools that come from every part of the city, every grade level. Community news organizations say results so far show cheating happened across multiple grades and subjects and years and an alarming rate of answers being erased and changed from wrong to right on the test. We're seeing cases of this all across the country from Atlanta, stories out of Denver to Los Angeles to New York.

Steve Perry is a CNN education contributor. Steve, this is so dismaying, I think. You know what I find so interesting about it, you talk about cheating, you talk about students cheating, the idea teachers are cheating is so depressing. What's going on?

STEVE PERRY, CNN ECONOMY CONTRIBUTOR: It's disgusting. It's the principals and vice principals doing it. That means your principal of your school have to sit down in a room and call out answers and erase them and go through each child's examination. So the process itself is disgusting.

But, more importantly, is what it does to the child in the community because it would be like you going, taking your child to the doctor and the doctor lying, literally, about your child's health condition and you finding out years later the thing they were supposed to be cured of they are, in fact, not. And services that were supposed to be offered to them are not going to be offered. You can't get back the second grade. Once it's gone, it's gone.

O'BRIEN: But wouldn't they argue, Steve, well, all of this is because of the tests, that you have the teachers now have to make a certain grade, so to speak, because if they don't, then it comes down to, you know, it has an effect, that by putting those kinds onerous tests in, you create a system like this. There could be an argument here.

PERRY: There is an argument, but it's a foolish argument. Last year our scores went down and no one cheated to get the scores back up. They're back up because we literally put our nose to the grind stone, worked our behinds off and got our scores back up. It happens. There's an ebb and flow.

When you're doing your work you don't need to cheat on the test if you are doing the work. It will show in what you do. The biggest issue here, Soledad, the children and the parents don't know what they don't know and we can't help them. We can't help a child. I'm not just a principal, I'm a parent. At least one of my sons this summer has been altered because of his performance on some of these examinations. There are things we are doing because I want to see better results from him.

O'BRIEN: There's now a manual to fix teacher-led cheating in Philly. There are criminal penalties. Why are you shaking your head no? You don't think it's going to work?

PERRY: I don't think that's going to work, no. It's like putting a stop sign up that's not going to be followed. The way in which you stop the cheating is you begin to create a new system. There's enough technology available to us for us to get rid of the paper and pencil tests and have the children sit in front of a computer, logon at a particular time, logoff at a particular time. That would mean in order to cheat the principals would have to hire an army of teachers to stand over the shoulders of every single child to go in and make sure they wrote the right answers. This way by using it technology as it currently exists every child could take the test.

In addition to that we need to stop taking the tests all at once, meaning in March. There's no good reason to take it in March. Take them throughout the year, make the tests smaller so that we can use it -- the results more effectively. Because even if you're not cheating, the result -- getting the results from the second grade class --



PERRY: -- in the summer when they're already in the third grade doesn't do anything for us as educators.

O'BRIEN: I thought the same thing when I got my daughter's grade it was like, thanks, but now what do I do? It's the summer. They're not studying anything right now.

All right, Steve Perry, always nice to see you, Steve.

PERRY: Thank you so much, nice to see you as well.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT actress Tamela Mann is in the most talked about movie of the summer. We're going to talk to her about "Sparkle." That was the last movie for Whitney Houston and also the first movie for "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks. She is with us live.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment. Good morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. I'm John Berman. A quick check of the headlines now -- very quick I can't even say it.

John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, is up for parole again. The hearing this week will be the seventh for Chapman, who gunned down John Lennon 32 years ago. It could happen as early as tomorrow -- a decision on his release is expected by week's end. Chapman is serving is 20 years to life for Lennon's murder.

Madonna sued in Russia for $10 million for voicing her support of gay rights. Reuters says anti-gay activists are suing the singer after she asked concert goers to wave pro-gay pink arm bands that were distributed at the show. Local law makes it illegal to, quote, "Promote homosexuality to minors". And apparently children were in the audience.

He's been suspended for 50 games for using testosterone but the way Giant's outfielder Melky Cabrera tried to beat the rap is bizarre and it's going to get interesting. He reportedly created a fake Web site with fake products to try to prove retroactively to Major League Baseball how he inadvertently purchased the banned substance. That trick backfired so the 50 game ban stands and now the federal government is investigating. Melky could be in some big trouble -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Here is the problem -- you know, you guys shouldn't try to harness the power of technology unless you're really a really good hacker, right, because you create this digital footprint that's -- now anybody who is able to crack that is going to be able to look back and say --

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Or the problem is --

CELESTE HEADLEE: That's what the problem was?

CAIN: -- do not cheat and continue to lie and cheat afterwards to cover up your original cheating.


O'BRIEN: That's a bigger problem. That's the bigger problem but also, like -- it's kind of falling under the dumb criminal thing. Like stop, just don't do it.

HEADLEE: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, John.

All right. Well, Whitney Houston's final movie "Sparkle" is now out in theaters. It opened in the fifth spot this weekend at the box office earning $12 million. Houston plays the overprotective mother of a girl singing group haunted by her own memories of show business. The film also stars Jordin Sparks of "American Idol" fame and actress Tamela Mann, who's an award winning gospel winner in her own right.

A new album out as well for Tamela it's called "Best Days." She plays the role of Whitney's best friend in "Sparkle" and she joins us now.

So you know I love gospel and every day I'm talking about gospel, so now they just brought you in to come and hang out with us.


O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate it. What was it like to play -- you're really almost in every single scene with Whitney Houston. What was that like?

MANN: It was wonderful. I mean, it was nothing like I've heard. I mean she didn't come in acting like a diva. She was very professional, very pleasant to work with. I mean, we had a lot of fun. We sat and talked about God a lot on the set and kids, of course, and singing. And she was like -- actually one of the first persons to hear a couple -- a couple of my songs before they came out. I mean the scratch of the two songs --

O'BRIEN: You were playing your album for her.

MANN: I was playing the album and I said, do you mind? And she was like, yes. So she was singing and she was like, ye, baby, get to this part and just -- just ride it. But it was really wonderful working with her and again, she was very professional.

O'BRIEN: There are people who said -- I think it was "Entertainment Weekly" had a quote that said this would be the first step not merely in a comeback with but in a major reinvention for Whitney Houston. Do you think that's true?

MANN: I -- I think so because she had done so well and especially when we got to the scene, the church singing. Her singing "His Eye on the Sparrow".

O'BRIEN: Right.

MANN: There was not a dry eye in the church. So I mean, it really was good and she was just good at what she was doing and she was co- producing the -- the movie, so she really did good. And I mean, she was trying to put it out for like the last ten years to get this movie out and for everything to go down like it did, I mean you know. But he knows -- God knows, so. But it was really great working with her.

O'BRIEN: You're an actor, you're a singer, obviously. You started with the Kurt Franklin family, right?

MANN: Yes I do.

O'BRIEN: Right, we just love Kurt Franklin, he's a friend. And -- and now you're doing a TV show, too. You cook. Can you cook?

MANN: I can cook.

O'BRIEN: No I can't at all.

(CROSSTALK) MANN: No, but -- you know I love cooking and I love to watch people eat.

O'BRIEN: We need to talk.

MANN: I do.

O'BRIEN: Because we could be friends. And she sings gospel.

MANN: My presentation is very important to me. Like once I cook the food, even for my family on a Sunday, I pull out my good dishes and set it all up like buffet and really nice --

O'BRIEN: You do the show with your husband?

MANN: With my husband David Mann. It's call "Hanging with the Manns", it's a cooking adventure show. So what we do is we base the cooking off the adventure. We -- in one instance we did a ranch. We rode horses and we did this game -- I don't know if you guys have ever heard of it, you're way up high here in New York, but it's called -- the game is goat dressing. Have you ever heard of it?

O'BRIEN: Goat.

MANN: What you have to do, is you have to catch a goat, catch a goat and put a skirt on the goat and you put a bandanna on the goat's neck.

CAIN: The goat doesn't like that, does he?

MANN: He was crying a little bit. We didn't hurt it but she was crying, the one I had. She was very cute. She had bows and everything.

O'BRIEN: What do you do when you catch it?

CAIN: I'm from Texas. That's called Saturday night.


MANN: It was great. We would go home and we'd cook -- like they just made this homemade chili. I made corn cakes and apple crisp in a hot iron skillet. That type of thing. It's like you base the cooking off the adventure.

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure I'm convinced. You might need to send some of that food right here to the set.

MANN: I would love to. If it's coming from Texas, it will be cold.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations on all your doing and "Sparkle" especially which has gotten some really great reviews.

It's nice to have you in panel. I'm such a big fan.

MANN: "Best Days" in stores now, my new project.

O'BRIEN: That's right. That's right. Came out on the 14th, right?

MANN: Yes, I'm excited about it.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations on that, too. We have to take a short break. "End Point" is up next.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: "End Point" this morning. Who wants to start? Celeste, ok?

HEADLEE: I think that all we've heard today throughout the morning will just remind everyone the danger of saying things on video whether you've stolen a bike, allegedly; whether you've said something about legitimate rape, which doesn't help a bit; you have to be very careful about who is filming and then think before you speak.

O'BRIEN: Or don't speak at all.

CAIN: I'll take it one step further. The danger of speaking without thinking. So how about don't steal the bike. How about, understand the stupidity of what you're saying on or off the camera (inaudible) legitimate rape and odd medical facts that no one seems to understand.

BEN SMITH: I'm not sure this is an issue of them speaking or being on video, it was that he thought that.

O'BRIEN: There you go.

SMITH: I mean I think -- one of the other things particularly if you're anywhere near a presidential campaign and you say something insane, it's going to be everywhere.

BERMAN: And Republicans this morning are racing to distance themselves from Akin's statement. Just this one from Sarah Steeleman who ran against Akin in the primary. "Todd Akin's remarks about legitimate rape were inexcusable, insulting and embarrassing to the GOP. Other Republicans this morning saying he should drop out of the race.

O'BRIEN: You think this has legs, distraction? Traction?

BERMAN: Today it does. I think it's going -- we'll hear all day today.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Well, coming up tomorrow on "STARTING POINT", we're going to be talking to Steve Forbes, former Republican candidate for president and the founder of Forbes Media Conglomerate and also Olympic bronze medal boxer Marlen Esparza. I did a documentary on Marlen and was so hope to be cheering for her and rooting for her during the Olympics and hurdler Lolo Jones will be with us. Also Kirk Cameron is going to join us. He's an actor and a director. We'll talk to him as well. All that and much more ahead.

We'll see you tomorrow morning on "STARTING POINT" and we have to toss it to "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello who is back from her vaca. Good morning Carol, welcome back.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I feel refreshed. Thanks Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Good.