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America's Education; Brains of Men and Women; Department Stores Racially Profiling Customers?; Neural Paths in Men, Women's Brains Different

Aired December 3, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 Later."

A lot on the table tonight, including new evidence that American teenagers are falling behind most of the rest of the world in reading, math and science, also new insight on how men and women's brains are different, and Macy's is taken to task for allegedly racially profiling shoppers.

We begin though tonight with breaking news in the New York train wreck that took the lives of four people and sent dozens more to the hospital. Now, the engineer, William Rockefeller, may have been dozing off before his train flew off the tracks going 82 miles per hour on a curve made for 30.

With us tonight, Nic Robertson, who has just talked to Mr. Rockefeller's attorney, also chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Amy Holmes, who anchors "The Hot List" at

Nic, you talked to the attorney. What did he have to say?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He said that the engineer had a good night's sleep, that he went to bed at 8:30 in the evening, got up at 3:30 in the morning, turned up at work at 5:00, and had no issues getting on the train, driving the train.

But he says that moment before, at some point before he got to the curve, he momentarily lost his concentration, that he had highway horizon, that he was somehow not entirely there. He said that he was in a daze. The lawyer even doesn't really quite know how to explain it.

COOPER: Because the union rep has used a different term.

ROBERTSON: Nodding off.

COOPER: Right, nodding off, which seems a lot more severe than just a kind of highway haze.

ROBERTSON: I think it's all the same thing.

What the union rep said to me was, who hasn't driven in their car at some point when they have been driving late, driving tired and they have had that moment when they get the sudden shock that you were actually dozing off? That's how he puts it.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Isn't it extraordinary that his lawyer is admitting this, Jeffrey?


AMANPOUR: And his union rep.


COOPER: But the lawyer, I found surprising, although the lawyer did sort of couch it.


TOOBIN: I don't know why the feel compelled to talk about this at this point. I'm glad for you because it's a scoop, but...

ROBERTSON: Well, it's interesting. But I think one of the reasons is that they feel this sense that the train driver does want to acknowledge at this stage that he does feel responsible for this.

And apparently by all accounts, the lawyer's accounts, union rep's account, he's going through a terrible time.


COOPER: Legally, what now happens?


TOOBIN: Oh, he's in a world of trouble. The definition of manslaughter is unintentional homicide. Four people died here. And if it's true that he simply fell asleep, I know you're using all these sort of euphemisms, nodding off, if a person in charge of an enormous train with all those lives in his hands simply falls asleep, that's a crime, as far as I can tell.

ROBERTSON: But he may have a defense in there somewhere. I don't know the legal arguments.

But we do know that there was a lever or something inside the cab known as the dead man's control.


TOOBIN: Explain about that.

ROBERTSON: Well, it's a system whereby if the driver does have let's say a heart attack or a major medical problem or falls asleep that he loses physical control and therefore he releases the control of this lever or pedal or whatever it is, depending which system it is, which automatically brings a train to a stop.

The fact that that didn't happen, would he -- this is really a legal question -- would he therefore be able to say I wasn't really asleep? Because if I was, this thing would have automatically activated.

TOOBIN: I don't know if that helps him or if it hurts him. It sounds to me like he was not entirely asleep, he was in some level of consciousness.

COOPER: Let me bring in a sleep specialist, Michael Breus, author of "The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan."

Can you explain, A., what does this sound like to you? Can somebody be -- this term nodding off, does that mean somebody's asleep?

MICHAEL BREUS, AUTHOR, "THE SLEEP DOCTOR'S DIET PLAN": Well, it can. And then again, it may not.

I think we're definitely in a realm of something that we're not 100 percent sure of that we can't understand here. What we do know, however, is that he was on a different shift approximately two days before he took on this shift. And what we're asking him to do is to change his entire circadian rhythm and move his entire body clock within a two days' period of time.

Well, he may have been able to wake up, he may have been able to even go to work, start the train and move train along and been just fine, but his circadian rhythm could have very easily caught up with him.

Here's a perfect example. You get up early for a flight and you get on the airplane, you're able to drive to the airport, no problem, get on the airplane, check your bags, all that stuff. The second you get on the airplane, what happens? Boom. You're out like a light. He was in a very interesting and controlled environment.

He was in a closed environment. He had a certain temperature there. He had the humming of the engine. He had a lot of different things there that could easily make somebody extremely tired, especially somebody who was not in their own controlled circadian rhythm, which could make them potentially sleepy.

COOPER: You would think if it was simply a matter of nodding off, which a lot of people have done while driving, you usually try to shift a position, stretch or stand up.

You and I were talking in the 8:00 hour. If he was heading into a turn, which he knew about and was a big turn, you would think if he's nodding off and it wasn't a full-on sleep, he could rectify that. But if he actually fell asleep, that's something different.

BREUS: Absolutely. That's exactly what I'm thinking, is I think that he had a great likelihood to be completely asleep.

Now, granted, I wasn't there. I wasn't in the cab with him. I really don't know. And when you start to talk about the dead man's switch, I think that's also another interesting fact. There are plenty of people who can do a lot of different things in their sleep, including muscle control. If he had hold of that switch and he was holding onto it, there are a lot of people out there who could still maintain that kind of muscle control and still hold onto that switch, depending upon how his arm was facing, how his wrist was moving, where he could have easily held onto that switch for an extended period of time.

ROBERTSON: I have got a question here. The NTSB said that they will go back over a 72-hour period to see what he'd been doing in the 72 hours before. They say that he had started just the day before a new five-day shift. Is the 72-hour period sufficient for the NTSB to go back and to take this circadian rhythm change you're talking about?

BREUS: This is exactly the right question to ask.

OK? One of the things I have been thinking about is, think about when you travel through time zones. Right? we know that it takes the human body approximately one hour -- I'm sorry -- one day per hour of time zone crossed.

Well, if he had to change his bedtime so he was going to bed on this new shift at 8:30, waking up at 3:30, but let's say that in fact he was going to bed at a different time. Let's say he was going to bed at 10:00 or 11:30 on his previous shift, now we're asking him to go to bed two or three hours earlier. His body didn't have time to catch up.

His circadian rhythm might not have had time to catch up. Again, I don't know the particulars about exactly when he was going to bed.

TOOBIN: Let me ask you a question about personal responsibility. This seems like maybe he had a difficult scheduling situation. Don't people have some control over their own bodies? What about having a cup of coffee? What about splashing cold water on your face?

What about knowing that you're driving a train with hundreds of people's lives at stake? Isn't that something that's relevant, as well as his circadian rhythms?

BREUS: So, I think that's actually another great point. Let's talk about biology here.

So having responsibility is one thing. But you're driving along. And let's be honest. This is a guy who's a 10-year veteran. OK? This isn't his first -- this isn't his rookie season being an engineer. This is somebody who knows exactly what he's doing. He's highly skilled and he's highly trained. He's been doing this for quite a while.

He knows exactly what he's doing. And he was driving the train very well up until this point. I actually don't know how we would be able to determine that it was necessarily his fault, per se. If I had to be pointing fingers, I would really start to look at how are these companies actually putting these engineers potentially at risk by not allowing them to move into these shifts in a different way?

AMY HOLMES, "THE HOT LIST": That would certainly be the question that I would have, is that what are the policies here that protect both the driver and the passengers?

BREUS: Exactly.

HOLMES: Another question for you, has he submitted to a blood test?

ROBERTSON: He has a blood test. Toxicology results aren't back. He has passed the Breathalyzer, did pass the Breathalyzer at the time.

There's another factor in here that we're sort of talking about. He's a 10-year veteran, but apparently he only started working on this particular line two weeks ago. It's perhaps not enough to be that familiar with. Even if you're getting into that semi-dozed or dozed state, that there won't be a reflex knowing that you have just gone deep down 14 minutes or whatever it was past the last station. You knew you were coming to a bend.

HOLMES: They were barreling 80 miles per hour.

ROBERTSON: So we have got a change in shifts, we have got a new track. It opens up a lot.

AMANPOUR: When you look at all these things and you read all the reports, some of these train safety specialists and others have been talking about something that is called positive train control technology, in other words, a whole mechanical thing involving GPS and other such things that they should have in a lot of these trains, but apparently a lot of resistance because of cost.

Surely this is another moment where they are going have to reconsider that.

ROBERTSON: The NTSB has made that point very heavily today that they have been calling for this for 20 years.


COOPER: Michael, just -- we talked about this a little bit in the 8:00, but just before you go on and very quickly, for folks out there who do have problems sleeping who have to adjust for schedules, what's your quick advice?

BREUS: One of the things they could have done was -- what they should really is provide like light therapy for these engineers in the early morning hours, because since there's no sunlight, and we know that sunlight almost resets somebody's biological clock, there are commercially available light boxes.


COOPER: That really works?

BREUS: Absolutely they work. There's proven clinical data to show they work.

I have used them in my patients and they work like a charm. I have got plenty of patients who are phase-delayed or phase-advanced, meaning that their body clocks are out of sync with what it is that they want to do. And we absolutely, positively can get them back in sync.

COOPER: You also say you have got to stick to a schedule. So, if you're on a night shift, even on your days off, you need to try to maintain those hours or close to it as possible.

BREUS: Absolutely.

It's another classic thing that we do with our shift workers. If you're normally -- if he went to bed every night at 8:30 and woke up at 3:30 and he'd been doing that for weeks and weeks and weeks at a time, then his body is going have a much better chance of adjusting and less of a chance of this horrible tragedy.

COOPER: All right, Michael Breus, interesting advice. Thank you.

Nic Robertson, good to have you here as well. Thanks.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet us using #AC360later.

Coming up, another survey shows American 15-year-olds are way behind in reading, math, and science compared to other countries. We will take a look at why that's happening next.


COOPER: Welcome back. Thanks for your tweets.

A new study is adding to the mounting -- the mountain of evidence, I should say, that the United States just is not making the grade when it comes to education. In a test given to 15-year-olds around the entire world, American students were far below average in math and only about average in science and reading.

The top five scores in each subject were from Shanghai, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea. Way down in 36th place, the United States.

Back with our panel, Christiane Amanpour, Jeffrey Toobin, Amy Holmes, and in the fifth chair tonight actor Hill Harper, author of "Letters to an Incarcerated Brother," the star of USA Network's "Covert Affairs."

What do you make of this study?

HILL HARPER, ACTOR: Well, it apparently has happened over the last 30 years, because we used to be number one, number one in college graduates, number one in math and science.

And what popped out to me in the study is the disparity of how much in Shanghai, which is number one, how competitive it is to get a job as a teacher, how high the salaries are, that it's considered a great job.


COOPER: Same in Finland. It's like the top 10 percent of graduates get the jobs as teachers, whereas that's not the case in...

AMANPOUR: It's a very respected job.

HARPER: Right.

COOPER: And rewarded as well, which is obviously also an issue sometimes here, although it seems in the United States, they're throwing a lot of money at the issue.

AMANPOUR: Except -- they are throwing a lot of money, but when you look at the actual stat, they're not throwing as much money in certain areas as other countries.

Some of these countries that are doing better, for instance, have more money thrown at the schools where actually they need it, the disadvantaged schools. Here, it's one of the few countries that throws more money in schools where people are better off.


COOPER: That's because the schools, or public schools are funded through property taxes.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And the teacher-student ratio is worse here than in some of the countries that are doing a lot better.

HOLMES: But you also have to look at culture.

AMANPOUR: Yes, of course.

HOLMES: And mountains of studies here in the United States that parental involvement is the number one predictor of child success.


TOOBIN: There was some good news, which was that lower-income kids are actually doing better and...

COOPER: Doing better comparatively, but not overall.


TOOBIN: Well, they're doing better than they had been, which is good.

And one question I had for you is, what about the Common Core, which has gotten a lot of attention lately, which says we need to start measuring American students and have a curriculum for American students that is comparable to what they get in Shanghai?

COOPER: On that, let me actually bring in Sal Khan, who is founder of the Khan Academy, author of "The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined."

Appreciate you being with us, Sal.

What do you make about that, about the Core curriculum? Is that something that -- it's certainly something the Obama administration has been pushing. Is that something you support?


There's been a lot of confusion and I would say sometimes misinformation about the Common Core. But as was just mentioned, it's actually a far more rigorous standard than what has been used in most of the states. It allows states to pool resources and for people like Khan Academy to help cater to more folks.

And it's much more about the conceptual understanding of core ideas as to opposed to just going through in a very superficial way many, many ideas. It's modeled over -- off of standards like the ones in Singapore. So I think it's a positive.

COOPER: So what needs to improve here? What can be done better? Clearly, it's not just an issue of money, I assume?

KHAN: No, not just an issue of money.

And at the Khan Academy, we kind of try to take a step back, because it is interesting to look at the PISA scores. It's interesting to see where these countries rank. But it's also important to kind of sometimes take a step back from that, because even while our scores have kind of been middling and sometimes declining up, the level of innovation in the U.S. has been accelerating.

If you asked anyone in the world what's the top 10 most innovative countries or where would you want to be an entrepreneur, people would say the U.S., so there are some things the tests aren't measuring, creativity, inventiveness, drive, whatever it might be. In my mind, especially on the math, which is where Khan Academy is most focused, I think it's actually a global issue, where students are being pushed along, kind of promoted along really based on, for lack of a better word, seat time, as opposed to competency.

They will get a superficial understanding of basic exponents and then they will moved on. Even though they got a C or a B or a D or an F, they will moved on to negative exponents or logarithms or whatever else it might be. Students end up getting a very superficial understanding of many things, as opposed to mastering concepts.

AMANPOUR: Sal talked about how America is still such an innovative culture and such creativity goes on here.

There's an interesting little paragraph in this article that we're talking about today which says that some specialists and economists are worried about torpor in the economy. Up until now they said the American economy has been so inventive and resilient, it actually has been able to function even with problems in student graduates this and that who are not up to snuff.

But in the future, it might not be able to. The labor force, the skilled labor force will have an impact on the economy. I would have thought it always had. And now it hasn't.


HOLMES: High-technology companies are actually drawing on educated immigrant labor, not necessarily here native American labor, again pointing to go the failure of our schools to educate our kids.

HARPER: Yes, but there's a difference. See, what we have, it sort of mirrors our economy in many ways, the study shows us that the top-performing U.S. private schools outperform anybody in the world.

So it's not that our -- our top students are still top. The problem is, it's the vast majority of our students that are going into our public school system where we're underperforming.

AMANPOUR: When you compare those to other countries, like in Japan, for instance, I was just talking to a Japanese colleague here before we came on, it's actually considered better to get into a public school in Japan than a private school, in parts of Europe as well.


TOOBIN: As I understand the data from these, that our better students are actually not doing as well as the better students in Singapore, that it used to be the case that the good students -- Sal, what do you know about that, that our better students who used to be at the top level are actually when you look at the latest data are not doing as well as they used to?

KHAN: Yes, my reading was what you just mentioned, that our top quartile or our top students aren't at the top of the list as was mentioned. They're kind of someplace in between.

But, once again, I do want to stress, this should absolutely be a cause of concern. We should always be introspecting on something as important of education, but this is only one measurement of our top students. If you look at the patents filed, if you look at kind of what -- some of the interesting things that someone -- if we wanted to focus on the top students that they're doing, I think they're comparable to the very build in the world.

AMANPOUR: Sal, when I talked to you a few months ago you talked about flipping the classroom. One of the things Khan Academy does is flipping. And you also said that, look, the education system we inherited from Prussia 200 years ago, Prussia doesn't exist anymore and the system has to change. Is that still your view?

KHAN: Yes, absolutely.

This isn't a U.S.-specific thing. The Prussian model of education, and Prussia was kind of the seed of modern Germany, is the education model that's used everywhere, including Singapore and South Korea and Finland.

COOPER: What is flipping? What is flipping? I don't know what that is.

KHAN: Flipping is the idea -- I started off making these videos on YouTube and I started getting letters from teacher saying, hey, you have already given a reasonable lecture of photosynthesis or on factoring polynomials.

So, instead of using valuable class time to deliver another lecture, the teachers were like, well, I'm letting students access those things at their own time and their own pace. They don't have to be embarrassed if they forgot something. They could move ahead if they need to. And then class time becomes all about problem solving, what used to be relegated to homework.

And that allows the class to be much more interactive. It allows the teachers to see in real time where every student is. It allows students to communicate with each other, teach each other and really get the important part of the learning, which is the problem solving.


COOPER: Does anyone at this table know what a polynomial is?


COOPER: I have no idea.

HOLMES: All of that also depends on kids having that time carved out at home where there is a focus on homework, where there is a value on educational attainment and achievement.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention school choice in Washington, D.C., there's the Opportunity Scholarship Fund that is now finding 91 percent high school graduation rates for kids from families who only make $21,000 a year getting 91 percent graduation rate. That is a huge success that I think we should be seeing more on the front pages.

AMANPOUR: What is a polynomial, Sal?

KHAN: It's an expression with -- well, I don't want to get technical.


HARPER: Come on, Sal.


KHAN: There's videos on Khan Academy.


COOPER: I'm going to look at a video because I feel embarrassed. (CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Just a little thing about parents, again, I talked to a woman who had written a book about what we can learn abroad. And, basically, she said as a woman in Japan, she noticed that she was the only woman, only mother in the playground hovering around her child, helicoptering around her child.

The Japanese moms were letting the children fall over, make mistakes, figure out what to do. So also this whole personal incentive and not being too stymied.

COOPER: We have to take a quick break.

Sal Khan, thank you so much for being on. Appreciate it. Great to have you here.

Up next, in New York, Macy's, big department store, is being subpoenaed over questions about racial profiling and allegations that African-American shoppers are being stopped and accused of shoplifting. We will take it to the panel next.


COOPER: Hey. Welcome back to the discussion.

New York retailers, including Macy's and Barneys, big department stores, being accused of stopping and questioning African-American customers, accusing them of shoplifting or in the case of actor Rob Brown, star of the HBO series "Treme," credit card fraud. He was actually handcuffed.

Now Macy's is being slapped with a subpoena from the New York City Commission on Human Rights. The company has until next week to turn over their store security policies and theft data.

Back now with our panel.

How big of an issue do you think this is?

HARPER: I come at this from a very personal side. I have been followed many times when I go shopping, and it's humiliating, it's bothersome, and it makes you angry, because you go to a place because you actually want to purchase something.

And then you look over your shoulder and there's someone actually following you. And it becomes in a game in a way, because you're thinking, are they really following now?

HOLMES: Or if they're not following you, they're ignoring you. And they won't help you. And when you go to the dressing room, they keep knocking over and over, "Can I take some items out of your dressing room?" because they worried that you're shoplifting.

I think...

AMANPOUR: Has that happened to you?

HOLMES: Oh, many times. And it's happened to members of my family. And what should be an affirming experience becomes an embittering, sour one.

TOOBIN: This is the thing about Macy's and Barneys. They are located in the United States. And this is what happens to black people in the United States, whether it's driving a car. I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with the concept DWB, driving while black.

People -- black people get stopped in cars by cops more than white people do. They get stopped in department stores. This is just what happens.

AMANPOUR: And we know that they fill the prisons in this country. And the data is just appalling. If you look at marijuana, for instance, the statistics show that young blacks, young whites are equally likely to smoke marijuana, but young blacks get arrested four times as many times as whites or in some cases eight times as many times. It's just -- the decks are stacked.

HARPER: And the legal penalties that come with the same carrying, et cetera, et cetera.

But what we're talking about here basically is racial profiling, whether we're talking about it from a stop and frisk standpoint, whether they're talking about it from -- in a store. And we're a better country than this type of behavior. And...

HOLMES: And Macy's is a better store than this.

And when I was in college, in the summers, I worked in retail as a sales girl. And I worked for a department store in Seattle that was actually bought by a Macy's. And we were instructed, don't try to catch shoplifts. You can't. A professional shoplifter is very clever, very savvy. You're just not going to spot them.

Number two, the biggest thieves and the biggest shoplifters in the department store...

COOPER: Are employees.


HOLMES: ... are the employees. They are the employees, not the customers.

So I'm not sure what Macy's or Barneys thinks that they're gaining out of this, but they're getting a lot of really bad press.

COOPER: Right. From a business standpoint, this is really a moronic thing to do. Just the negative attention that you get. It certainly sends the wrong message.

TOOBIN: It also reflects the mindset of a lot of people is that they look at a black person and think criminal. And so they respond. AMANPOUR: Look at what President Obama said about Trayvon Martin. "That could have been my son." Any black parent, when they see what happens to these kids, you know, please don't wear a hoody if you're a young black boy.

HARPER: Well, there's no question that my father taught me that when I got pulled over by the cops -- it wasn't like "if you get pulled over by the cops"; it was "when you get pulled over by the cops." Taught me, OK, you're going to keep your hands on the wheel. And he ran me through all of these rules to make sure that I didn't become a victim. Or they say, "I saw him reaching for something," and it was a mistake.

Now, should I have to hear that from my dad? Is that something that I should -- you know, he's trying to protect me. But if you look at this, you're talking about the arrest statistics and the incarceration statistics, we lock up 60 times more people in this country than any other industrialized nation in the world. And most of the folks who are locked up are black and brown.

And we have an incarceration crisis in this country. No one wants to talk about it. We don't have the political will to deal with it.

TOOBIN: That is actually not entirely true. People are talking about it. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, is talking about lowering mandatory minimums. You see a lot of Republicans now who are saying, you know, we are -- we are incarcerating way too many people. It costs way too much, doesn't help. I mean, so...

HARPER: Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich have been in support of prison reform. There's no question: it should be a political issue. But at the end of the day, an election -- won't cost election. It is not an issue that's at the top of any politician's mind, except for "I'm tough on crime," rather than being what you should be, smart on crime.

COOPER: I do think there's this inherent white sort of privilege that a lot of white people have. And I probably have, as well, growing up. Is that the assumption that the police are there to help you, which I don't think is the same assumption that it sounds like you were given from your dad early on. That -- the assumption was that they weren't there to help you.

The assumption in the store is, you know -- I think if white people started to be sort of stopped and questioned as -- as aggressively in department stores, there would be a greater level of outrage among the shopping population.

HOLMES: Let me tell you, when I go shopping, I know that I need to dress up. I need to wear my little status purse so that I'm treated at least like the average customer...

COOPER: Which is insane.

HOLMES: ... in that store.

And I was also taught, like Hill, to stand up for myself. And my parents said if this happens to you, you go to management. You go to H.R. and you say exactly who was treating you this way. And I have done that. And I've gone back to the store and seen that person get very nervous.

TOOBIN: There's a wonderful quote by Cornell West that's at the beginning of the introduction of Michelle Alexander's wonderful book, "The New Jim Crow." He says if white males were locked up at the same rate as young black males in this country, we'd consider it a national emergency. And that's absolutely true.

COOPER: It's the same thing as young black males being shot in Chicago on the way to or from school. If this was happening in predominantly white communities. Arne Duncan, when he was the head of education in Chicago and I was interviewing him, he said if this was happening to white people, this would be national headlines.

HOLMES: Pretty tough interviews on.

HARPER: It an example of a type of profiling that is done uniformly in California DUI stops. The don't just stop -- they don't let Mercedes drive through the stop and only stop, you know, poor -- so-called poor cars, et cetera. Everybody gets stopped at a DUI stop. They set up across the road. If you do a U-turn you get caught.

And so if you're going to do -- if you're going to stop people, you're going to follow people, follow everybody. Stop everybody. Stop the guys in Wall Street on the way to work and see if they have any illegal prescription drugs in their pockets.

TOOBIN: We just had a narrow election in New York where stop- and-frisk was a huge issue. The police have been enormously successful in New York. Crime is down enormously. Yet, the way the law had been enforced in black neighborhoods or minority neighborhoods got people so angry that they were ready to vote out anyone associated with the current regime, just because they felt so humiliated by how they'd been treated by the cops.

HOLMES: Well, you would hope that the community and the police force are working together instead of in this adversarial way.

AMANPOUR: The police chief was determined that this would stay.

TOOBIN: And that's a big reason Bill DeBlasio won, because he said it would not stay.

COOPER: We'll see who becomes police chief.

Up next turns out the whole "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" thing may not be far off. New research on how our brains are wired differently. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: OK, welcome back. New study out this week got us talking. Researchers in Pennsylvania did a bunch of brain scans, found that the brains of men and women are actually wired differently.

Men have more neural connections from the front to back of their brains while women have more wiring between the right and the left hemispheres. The upshot: those differences may explain why men may be better at tasks involving perceptions and coordination, and women may be more adept at analyzing and intuition. Keep in mind, we're talking averages here. There's obviously a lot of variation among men and women.

Back with the panel. Also joining us is Ellen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of "The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They're Changing the World."

Do you -- do you see this? Do you believe this -- that there are neural differences?

ELLEN FISHER, BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST: There's so much information. It isn't just the newest article on it. I mean, this has been going on for a long time.

Yes, and there's no reason why men and women would be alike. I mean, for millions of years, they did different jobs. And natural selection weeded out poor workers and selected for the brains of people who could do their work. And there's no question about it, that men and women have very, very different skills.

But, you know, we were built to put our heads together. And I think men and women are like two feet. They need each other to get ahead, but they're not alike.

And what was really good about this article for me, other than the basic brain data, is that they really focused on the complementarity of the seconds, rather than, oh, they're different; this is bad, et cetera, et cetera. The fact that they are, you know, built to work together is really...

COOPER: But there has been such a desire for, you know, differences between men and women to be eliminated, obviously, in the workplace and others. Does this run counter to that?

FISHER: You know, I make a lot of speeches in the business community. And they really want to know who women are. They don't really care about any sort of political or ideological facts. They just want to know who women are so they can do a better job at keeping them employed and bringing some of their contributions to the marketplace. It's remarkable some of the things that women are good at and have been good at for millions of years.

AMANPOUR: This study, I think, is -- Sorry to interrupt. You know, I'm a woman. What can I do? What was so interesting about this is that study suggests that men are, you know, good at perception and coordination. Women are good at everything else. The facts also show that when you have gender parity, gender equality in every walk of life, in every field, whether on the battlefield or in the classroom or in the, you know, boardroom or whatever, society is healthier, it functions better, and there's absolutely no doubt about it.

FISHER: It's a great deal of data, everything from the World Economic Forum all the way down to various studies. That, you know, I mean, you know, for millions of years they worked together.


FISHER: And in fact what's really nice now is that we're shedding the last 10,000 years of our agrarian tradition where women were stuck in the home. And women are back in the job market the way they were a million years ago. A million years ago women commuted to work to gather their fruits and vegetables, came home with much of the dinner. And, you know, it was a good complementarity.

TOOBIN: But aren't these studies just reinforcing what people have expected of the sexes rather than anything inherent about them? I just find these...

COOPER: What do you mean?

FISHER: What do you mean?

TOOBIN: That the idea that there is some, like, deep inherent difference between men and women? Isn't it really the fact that you've been socially -- men and women have been socially conditioned differently?

FISHER: Yes, but you know what? There are so many studies in 22 countries that women are, on average, better at verbal skills, better at reading posture, gesture, tone of voice. It comes from millions of years of holding their baby in front of your face, cajoling it, reprimanding it, educating with words.

For millions of years a man had to hit that buffalo in the head with a rock before it came and stampeded him. And for that they've got this brain circuitry.

COOPER: You don't buy this, Jeff?

TOOBIN: I don't buy that at all.

AMANPOUR: You're just being a Luddite now.


FISHER: What are you scared of? You're scared of something? I think what you're scared of is that a lot of feminists also are very frightened that if we know that there are gender differences, that it will be used against women.

HOLMES: That's right. FISHER: And that is true.

TOOBIN: And that's me.

FISHER: These days we've GOT to change our perspective, because women are piling into the job market in cultures around the world. And we need to know who they are.

HOLMES: There's another important -- there's another important reason for this. Is that if we are, you know, looking more closely and more scientifically at the brain, not politically, that neural disease is something that needs to be addressed.

FISHER: And that's what's the point of this article. You know, it's so interesting that I've spoken with so many neuroscientists, who you know, just -- they weren't doing a study on gender differences at all. And then they went in and did the study and, sure enough, they found the gender differences. Everywhere...

TOOBIN: OK. So thus what? Thus we do what differently?

AMANPOUR: Well, that's what. I'll show you what, that's what.

OK. What one of the major, major parts of the world we're all massively concerned about is where? The Arab and Muslim world. Right? What happens in the Arab and Muslim world? Women are not just third-class or fourth-class but 20th-class citizens.

FISHER: They're wasting one half of their population.

AMANPOUR: Right. And what does the UNDP, the development reports for the last several years have shown that this very rich part of the world in human and natural resources is way behind other countries. Why? Because half the population is disempowered, forbidden from working, forbidden from having...


AMANPOUR: That makes a difference. In war and peace, in economic health, in society.

TOOBIN: It makes a huge difference, but it has nothing to do with how people's brains are wired. It's just discrimination.

AMANPOUR: Of course.


HARPER: I have a question. This is important to me. Really important. You know, I went to officer candidate school in the Marine Corps. And the study said that men are supposed to be better map readers. That's the part when I was in the Marine Corps officer candidate school that I failed, and I think I led my platoon into a river or something. What does that say about my brain?

FISHER: I think you've said something very important. It says that there's human variation. You know, and for example, Bill Clinton has a great deal of high estrogen qualities in him. I mean, he cries easily. He's very verbally skilled. He's got very good people skills. He's imaginative. The whole world knows he can't stop talking. You know, he has a lot of the traits of the female brain.

And whereas his wife, I think, Hillary has -- she's tough-minded, direct, decisive. So you're going to see variation. We're talking about...

TOOBIN: Doesn't it sound to me like a bunch of stereotypes...

AMANPOUR: Oh, for heaven's sakes.

TOOBIN: ... that should be based on anything that Hillary is a man and is like a woman and Bill Clinton is like a woman?

FISHER: I didn't say Hillary was a man.

TOOBIN: An old naysayer.

AMANPOUR: Science has been telling us for years -- and this is, as you said, just another part and another step in the science -- that actually, men and women are wired differently. But it doesn't mean that men should have "X" opportunity and women should have "Y" opportunity.

FISHER: It's about how you make a team. I mean, how do you build a corporate board; how do you build a team to do things? You want to know the skills of various people so that you can make a complementary team that works together appropriately.

HOLMES: See, I'm not so sure about that. Jeffrey, to your point, I love superheroes. Math was my favorite subject. I read science fiction when I was a pre-teen. I'll read the math and you do the talking.

COOPER: All right. We've got to leave it there. Helen Fisher, it's good to have you on.

FISHER: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks very much.

Up next Hill Harper who's on the panel tonight, knew Paul Walker, the actor who tragically died in a car crash over the weekend. They actually worked together in a movie. Hill's thoughts next. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Time now for "What's Your Story?" I want to begin with Hill Harper. He actually knew actor Paul Walker, who died in a car crash this weekend at the age of 40 years old. You were in "The Skulls."

HARPER: We did a film called "The Skulls" together. And it was, you know -- it was the beginning of both of our careers.

COOPER: Like 2000?

HARPER: Yes, around 2000. And Rob Cohen directed it. Wonderful film. We spent all this time together shooting this. And his character actually kills me in the movie.

And I remember, one of the most precious memories I have is that we went to the initial screening of the rough cut of the movie. As I'm walking up to the theater, he runs up to me. And he goes, "Hill, I'm going to do this cool movie." And he had just -- they had just signed to do this movie called "Red Line," which became "Fast and the Furious." And it was this beginning -- the same director -- beginning of this stardom that he was going to enter.

Such a generous spirit, such a wonderful person. And my heart just goes out to him and his family. Just an amazing guy. And it's a big loss.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, 40 years old. It's unthinkable.

During "What's Your Story?" we usually go back to the panel and just find out some stories that people have been interested in. By the way, Sal Kahn earlier talked about a discussion on educational use of polynomials. I didn't know what it is. I don't know if everyone else does. We've been wondering what they are ever since. Here's a quick video of Sal Kahn explaining polynomials.


KAHN: Polynomial. It might sound like a really fancy word. But really, all it is, is an expression that has a bunch of variable or constant terms in them that are raised to none zero exponents. So that also probably sounds complicated, so let me show you an example. If I were to give you "X" squared plus 1, this is a polynomial. This is, in fact, a binary because it has two terms.


COOPER: We're done. Jeff, "What's Your Story?"

TOOBIN: I'd like to talk about my favorite Twitter feed. Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, does a Twitter feed that is nothing but old photographs. Usually from the early part of the 20th century. Many of them early color photographs involving some celebrity, some political figures. And they are all distinctive but none of which I think I've ever seen before. It's a lot of fun. It's Beschlossdc. People should check it out.

COOPER: All right. Christiane, "What's Your Story?"

AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to say my favorite story was about the pope, Pope Francis, going out and working, you know, with the poor, sneaking out of the Vatican at night. But that has been debunked by the Vatican. Apparently he doesn't do that. So my favorite story is that I got out of the car tonight and I dropped my BlackBerry in the grate, in the sewer. And a heroic security guy got it out for me.

COOPER: Really.

TOOBIN: The problem, though, is you still shouldn't have a BlackBerry.

COOPER: I know. What are you doing with a BlackBerry?

TOOBIN: Maybe you should have left it...


TOOBIN: ... when it fell in there. It was a sign.

HOLMES: You need the buttons. You need the buttons.

COOPER: Amy, "What's Your Story?"

HOLMES: My story is about the pope, Pope Francis. We are on the same track, not just BlackBerries. And it was revealed today that the pope used to be a bouncer.

COOPER: Yes. I heard that.

HOLMES: Fantastic. He was a bouncing in Buenos Aires. And apparently now says he wants to bounce people into the church instead of out of bars.

COOPER: My story is this guy who, he was a cook on a tugboat off the coast of Nigeria. The boat sank. Everybody on the boat was killed except for him. He survived for almost three days in an air pocket inside this upside-down boat 90 -- some 90 feet underneath the water.

Divers went to go and retrieve the bodies of the crew, thinking everybody was dead after three days. And the divers, we didn't prepare the video, but there's video -- here it is. These are divers. They could only see a few inches. They were expecting to find dead people. And all of a sudden a hand comes out of the darkness, grabs them. And this is the guy who has been staying there for 2 1/2 days. He only had a can of coke for the 2 1/2 days that he was there. That's him in better times.

But again here's the hand reaching out and grabbing the diver. Can you imagine being a diver, all prepared to just find corpses and all of a sudden, a living hand grabs you out of the darkness?

TOOBIN: You showed that in the 8 p.m. show. And I loved that one of the divers said he was the cook. Of course, the cook always survives. It's part of the nautical myth, that the cook always survives. He was the cook. COOPER: He ended up under -- 90 feet underwater. There was an air -- the boat was upside-down so there was this air pocket. And it was pitch black. So for 2 1/2 days, can you imagine how terrifying that is?

HOLMES: Terrifying.

COOPER: Not knowing if anyone's going to come and find you ever. Ever. And slowly running out of air. They finally -- they put a diving helmet on him, they got him up and then they had to put him into, I guess, decompression tanks for days, because.

AMANPOUR: I wonder how they pushed the boat up.

COOPER: It's a tugboat. It's not a little row boat. And also 90 feet, I mean, is...

AMANPOUR: It's heavy. Pressure.


TOOBIN: Why didn't he push the boat up?

COOPER: Yes. Ai, yi, yi.

HOLMES: Not a kayak.

COOPER: Well, that does it for -- that does it for our panel. Thanks so much for watching "AC 360 LATER." Appreciate it. Don Lemon is up next with a new program, "THE 11TH HOUR." We'll see you tomorrow.