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Government Shutdown Deadline; Wildfires Scorch West Texas; College Scholarships For White Males; Gas Prices Up 20 Cents In One Week; President Vows to Work with States; NFL's Michael Oher Discusses New Book

Aired February 28, 2011 - 13:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Suzanne. Well, folks, it may be Monday to you, but Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are already looking to Friday, because if Congress fails to reach a spending agreement by then, the government will basically have to shut its doors.

On the table right now, a two-week extension that would allow negotiations to continue without a shutdown. We'll go live to Capitol Hill in a moment for the politics of this.

But, first, let me tell you how we got here. Usually, lawmakers pass 12 appropriation bills for the president's approval. These fund federal agencies and let them pay their bills, but the last Congress failed to pass a single one, passing the burden on to the new Congress. And not one of them was ever approved to the senate or got to the president's desk, last year. Lawmakers have been relying on continuing resolutions like the one that's being proposed right now.

Now, if you're wondering what a government shutdown would mean for you, the last major shutdown was in 1996. Then national parks, museums, and monuments were closed. Passport applications went unprocessed. The national institutes of health stopped accepting new research patients. Health care services for veterans were cut back. However, essential services like air traffic control and anything, anything having to do with national security would remain operational. The post office, by the way, would stay opened. It is self-funded.

CNN's Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash joins me now for today's "Two at the Top."

Dana, as I said, on the table a two-week extension. The house will take that up tomorrow. It contains $4 billion, though, in spending cuts. Will Senate Democrats go for that to avert a government shutdown on Friday?

DANA BASH, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks like right now the answer to that is yes, Christine, that Senate Democrats are likely to pass something that does prevent the government from shutting down on Friday.

You know, the Democrats, I am told, might ask for some small changes, maybe in the length of that or maybe in exactly what is cut, but what health (ph) Republicans did is sort of made them an offer that they can't refuse. Senate Democrats have said they didn't want really any cuts at all, even in the short-term measure, but what they have done on the House side is made these cuts from the president's very own budget, so it basically -- they basically said to Senate Democrats, you know, put up or shut up.

So, it looks like it is going to be very hard for Senate Democrats to vote against this, but make no mistake, we are talking about the short term, probably a two-week reprieve. But the prospects for a government shutdown after that is still -- is still very high.

ROMANS: OK. So, if the two-week resolution passes, then will lawmakers be able to use that time to negotiate a more permanent solution? Two-week patches, I mean, at some point, you've got to solve this.

BASH: Absolutely and that really is the goal. Talking to sources in the Senate side and House side today, Christine, they say that that is their plan. Their hope is to use that time to start negotiations. I'm told actually that those negotiations will likely start this week with Democrats and Republicans and likely White House officials as well, because you mentioned the differences, they are huge.

Remember, House Republicans passed a spending measure to keep the government running all year. Sixty-one billion dollars in cuts. Senate Democrats don't want anywhere near that, not only because of the overall level, but because of, specifically, the agencies and programs that Republicans are talking about cutting, not to mention the fact that they want to stop funding the president's health care law. But those are things that Democrats say no way to.

But politically, Christine, I'm told that House Speaker John Boehner and at the White House, both of those important figures in this really want to do whatever it takes to avoid a government shutdown. How they're going to get there? That is the big question mark long term.

ROMANS: All right, stay tuned I guess. All right, Dana Bash. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Now to the Texas panhandle where firefighters are trying to contain some fast moving wildfires that have burned 120,000 acres. Since noon yesterday, forestry officials and local fire departments have responded to 25 fires in 15 counties. But these hard numbers don't touch the heart break of homes burned, the memories turning to ash. Juan and Rosemary Segovia -- they left their home for 20 minutes yesterday to return to nothing. They are today's "Sound Effect."


JUAN SEGOVIA, LOST HOME IN FIRE (ph): This fire incredible. To know that everything you worked so hard for is all gone within 20 minutes. (INAUDIBLE.) We come back - (INAUDIBLE) we're still here.


ROMANS: A spokeswoman with the Texas State Lone Star Incident Management Team (ph) tells CNN evacuation -- that evacuation orders put in place yesterday were lifted as of this morning.

I want to bring in our severe weather expert Chad Myers. Chad, wind really fanning these flames yesterday.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Sixty-eight miles per hour. When you get wind like that that can take ashes and sparks and throw those ashes and sparks miles and miles ahead, even the firefighters can't keep up. And, so, these houses were literally in the way of this fire, a number of fires. That wind has now moved to the east, and, so, Dallas is in it today. A lot more people around Dallas, right? And a lot more things to burn around Dallas, too. So, wildfire management today is at a premium. All things -- nothing burning outside, period, around the central Texas area.

ROMANS: That family left for 20 minutes -- that family left for 20 minutes and that was it -- unbelievable.

MYERS: That storm just blew -- that fire right through that entire community.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, severe weather expected all the way down from, what, Alabama all the way up to New Jersey.

MYERS: Yes, we even have some pink boxes, right here. These just popped up here. This is about Lincoln County. That right there, that's Pigeon Forge. We all know what's going on in Pigeon Forge, that right there would be just to the southeast there of Murfreesboro.

Tornado warnings, some storms are spinning. I suspect that we will get more boxes, probably in the Carolinas, maybe all the way down to Atlanta, Georgia today. Tornadoes happen when storms spin. The watch means that some storms could spin. The warning means that storms are spinning -- take cover. Only those three warnings right now.

ROMANS: All right, Chad Myers. Thank you so much, Chad.

MYERS: Welcome to our show.

ROMANS: Thank you. Nice to be here, nice to be here. Watch Ali Velshi, right? We're taking control of his two hours.

MYERS: That's right.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Chad.

A new nonprofit offering scholarships to white men only. Are they helping students in need or is this just going too far? The president of that group joins me next. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: College scholarships are offered for all sorts of things from sports and academic achievements to community service work, but a new group in Texas is offering scholarships to a demographic that just may surprise you. Scholarships for white males. That's right. Exclusively white men only, who maintain a 3.0 grade point average. A nonprofit group called the Former Majority Association For Equality was started by my guest today who joins us from Austin, Texas -- Colby Bohannan. An Iraq war veteran and a student at Texas State University.

Colby, what made you create this scholarship? You came back, you were trying to enroll for college, and you found there was just a real dearth of scholarships for someone like you?

COLBY BOHANNAN, PRESIDENT, FORMER MAJORITY ASSOCIATION FOR EQUALITY: Well, I came back from enlisting in the Army and went immediately back to school. And me and two of my eventual board members -- we sat down and we looked at the landscape of financial opportunity for people in this country, and we found that there was a gap and that gap belonged to Caucasian Americans who were male, and they're not -- they were not offered by any ethnically based scholarship. So, we said, hey, let's start one.

ROMANS: So, this is -- and, now, it's not just for white men. I mean, you have to prove what, that you are 25 percent Caucasian and 3.0 -- what do you -- oh, we lost you. Looks like we lost our signal, just as we were getting to ask him some good questions. We're going to see if we can get him back, but, again, a really interesting discussion. I want you to go to Ali's blog. You can also go to, Christine Romans, and talk about this.

We're going to try to get him back so we can talk about just what these scholarships -- college scholarships mean, who they're for, and what kind of questions they raise, and also what it says about the minority/majority changes -- demographic changes in the country.

All right, gas prices up 20 cents in one week. How all the unrest in the heart of oil country is affecting things in your hometown and how to survive.


ROMANS: All right, expect a lot of double takes at the gas pump today. The national average has spiked to $3.37 a gallon for regular, and, yes, that is quite a bit higher than we were paying to start the workweek last week -- like, say, 20 cents more a gallon. And if you think that hurts, check out this math.


PETER BEUTEL, ENERGY ANALYST: Every penny increase at the pump takes $4 million per penny per day from the American consumer. So, a ten cent increase is $40 million a day as long as that ten cent increase is in place. The 30 cent increase that I expect we will see between next week and this week, there you're talking about $120 million each and every day that it remains in place out of American consumers' pockets.


ROMANS: Why so high so fast? Well, analyst Peter Beutel says we kind of got a perfect petroleum storm going on. An economic recovery, up market, a down dollar, plus seasonal demands on the way, right? And, of course, unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, the heart of oil production.


BEUTEL: If we were to lose Libya and then throw out a name, Algeria, the Saudis could make that up so you have psychological trauma but you don't necessarily lose any oil. But if on top of that, you, then, lose another major oil exporter, then you've got real problem and $5.00 gasoline starts coming into the picture, potentially.


ROMANS: Yes, that's what he said, $5 gasoline, potentially. That would be pretty ugly.

So just to dig a little bit deeper into what Peter was saying about the ripple effect of all this regional unrest. We saw Libya's chaos really shake up oil prices last week. It's got the largest proven reserves in Africa and exports almost 80,000 barrels a day to the U.S. He also mentioned Algeria, which has seen some anti- government protests. We get nearly 500,000 barrels a day from them. And for country number three, let's just say that, you know, let's just say unrest gets way worse in Iraq. They export 450,000 barrels a day here. Add those numbers up and they pretty much equal the amount of oil we get from the big fish, Saudi Arabia, every day. And that's how these political question marks affect dollar signs and your bottom line.

And be sure to join me for "Your Bottom Line" each Saturday morning at 9:30 Eastern. Don't miss "Your Money" with Ali Velshi Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sundays at 3:00. We're also both available on Facebook and Twitter.

Checking our top stories now. Witnesses in eastern Libya report a military jet has bombed a base where weapons and ammo are stored, apparently to keep them out of the hands of rebel fighters. The base is about 90 miles outside Benghazi, now an anti-Gadhafi stronghold. Meantime, the Pentagon has just confirmed it's repositioning U.S. Naval and Air Force in the region to be prepared for any move they might have to make.

High winds, dry ground proving a costly combo in west Texas. More than 20 wildfires in a dozen counties flaring up and they've now burned over 120,000 acres. This is according to the state forest service. As far as structures, the latest number we're hearing, 80 homes and buildings destroyed.

And tributes are pouring in for Frank Buckles, who had been the last surviving American veteran of World War II. Mr. Buckles died yesterday at the age of 110. Today, President Obama celebrated what he called, quote, "a remarkable life that reminds us of the true meaning of patriotism and our obligations to each other as Americans."

College scholarships are offered for all sorts of things, from sports and academic achievements, to community service work. But a new group in Texas is offering scholarships to a demographic that just might surprise you. We told you about this a few minutes ago. Scholarships for white males. That's right, exclusively white men only who maintain a 3.0 grade point average. The non-profit group, called The Former Majority Association for Equality was started by my next guest. He joins us from Austin, Texas, again, Colby Bohannan, an Iraq War veteran and student at Texas State University.

Thanks for joining us. Sorry about that technical glitch in the last five or six minutes.

So, look, you came back and you came back from enlisting in the Army and decided that there needed to be more choices for scholarships for people like you, white men. Why?

BOHANNAN: Well, Christine, it really was just us looking at scholarships in America and groups that are trying to help their own and groups that are trying to help specific, you know, subsets of the population. Well, one of those subsets of the population was getting left out and that was the Caucasian American male who wanted to go to college but maybe didn't have a bunch of money sitting around just because he was white and was male. And those are the people that we're trying to help.

ROMANS: Now you get why there are so many scholarships for other groups, though, because for so long, for so long it was just white men who were getting into school. And I'm talking until the last 30 years or so. So you're seeing that things have switched around a little bit that -- where scholarships were meant to get people into college who never had access before, demographic groups who never had access before. You're saying now in Texas and in other states, quite frankly, the majority is becoming the minority and for small -- for younger kids, especially when you look in Texas and some other states too, that they need to have a little bit of help now getting into college.

BOHANNAN: Well, unfortunately, Christine, I wasn't around 30 years ago to know what kind of people were going to school. All I know is what I've seen and what the rest of my board members have seen for our non-profit organization. And that's all different kinds of people are going to school. And it just so happens that those few people out there that just have money laying around, they are truly the minority. The majority is that people can't really afford college. People are working 40 hours a week, 50 hours a week, going to school full-time and still having to borrow money. Education is expensive. I understand that.

ROMANS: I know.

BOHANNAN: And we found a group that has not been targeted yet by an ethnically based scholarship. And we're here to help those people. ROMANS: What are the other prerequisites for this scholarship?

BOHANNAN: The prerequisites are you need to substantiate financial need, prove that you are a member of your -- I'm sorry, an active member in your community, demonstrate leadership potential, and also show us that you have a dedication to your education with high grades and that's about it. Also, be 25 percent Caucasian American and male.

ROMANS: How much are the scholarships? $500 or so, right? I mean you're getting the money from donations. Are you concerned at all about getting money from -- you know, there are some people, quite frankly, who are going to see this and think that, for example, white supremacists groups and people who might not share your politics, quite frankly, who might think that this is something that they want to support. Would you take money from them?

BOHANNAN: One of the very first things that we realized when bringing this organization together was, this is a very abrasive subject in America. And one of the first things that we wrote on our website, we wanted to state clearly that we do not promote any kind of racial bigotry or white supremacy and we don't take money from people who do. If you're part of a white supremacists group or -- keep your money. We don't want your money. That's our stance on that.

We don't have any political agendas or any kind of message that we're trying to send. I've had dozens of questions about affirmative action. We're not saying anything about anything except for helping poor white males who are trying to go to college and need a little help.

ROMANS: Well, you know, we're told that in this economy that everyone, you know, needs to have the right kind of science and math based, you know, education to get a job in a globalized economy. And you're right, that a lot of people -- you know, people are graduating from school with record debt. So scholarships, you know, we need them. We definitely need them.

But, you know, you can see how some people might look at it and say, after men having the preferential treatment for so long, it just -- it makes them a little nervous, you know? Do you understand how some people might be nervous by it?

BOHANNAN: I can't say that I understand why people would be nervous about it. It's really about just broadening your horizons and looking at the entire scope of the population. If we're going to offer scholarships to group one, two, three, and four, but group five isn't allowed to have scholarships, that's a logical fallacy.

ROMANS: Right.

BOHANNAN: White males, just because they're white and they're male don't have a bunch of money sitting around ready to pay for $40,000, $50,000 tuitions. And so, you know, it's the pink elephant in the room. We're addressing that situation. Hey, it's time. Things have changed in our country and this part of the population deserves help and now, thanks to us, is going to get help.

ROMANS: You know, I'll tell you something, and something I think we can all agree, if we could figure out how to get tuition inflation down a little bit it would help people out, help everyone looking for scholarships out a little bit, too, wouldn't it? All right, Colby Bohannan, thank you so much.

BOHANNAN: And gas prices, too, while we're at it, right?

ROMANS: I know. I know, right, everything's going up, except income.

Thanks so much. Nice to see you.

BOHANNAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: We want your input on this story, actually. Join the discussion on Ali's blog, We're going to use some of your comments later in the program.

The president giving props to one of his Republican rivals over health care. Our Ed Henry coming up next to tell us what point the president was really trying to make.


ROMANS: The country's governors are wrapping up their meetings in Washington today. Those meetings have been filled with budget talk and talk about the possible government shutdown. Today they heard from President Obama about both. We're joined by senior White House correspondent Ed Henry every day at this time for our "Stakeout."


ROMANS: Ed, what's the president's overall message to the governors?

HENRY: Well, his first message was, look, I want you all to feel right at home here at the White House, but some of you governors looking at 2012 and running for president don't feel too much at home. Don't take that too literally. It was a little joke, but it was sort of the tension hanging -- it was kind of the elephant in the room, if you will, no pun intended on all of the Republicans, because, you know, look, a lot of them are thinking about running for president. One of them, a former governor in Mitt Romney from Massachusetts.

On a substantive point it was interesting that the president decided to mention Mitt Romney in health care. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitt Romney, who recently said he's proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He's right. Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs as Massachusetts or California or North Dakota. We believe in that flexibility. So right now, under the law, under the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts and Utah already operate exchanges of their own that are very different. Operate them in their own way and we made sure that the law allowed that.


HENRY: In addition to making things a little bit more politically painful, if you will, for Mitt Romney, by mentioning his own health care reform effort in Massachusetts, something that potential Republican rivals in 2012 are planning to make a lot of, the president, a substantive point there. And when you decode that message, what he was saying is, that the health care law nationally had this provision that in 2017 individual states could basically opt out of the president's health plan if they came up with their own innovative ways to keep health care costs down.

The president now revealed today his first big, big change to the health care law by saying, look, I'm going to speed that up and let you opt out in 2014 if this bill that's circulating around Congress goes through. Then he'll sign that into law. That basically shows the president understands his health care law is under fire, it's under assault right now and he's trying to show some flexibility with these governors who actually have to implement it, Christine.

ROMANS: Ed, was there any moment in there that really caught your attention in his remarks to the governors?

HENRY: Well, I think beyond health care, the other one was Wisconsin. He hasn't said anything in about a week or so about all those protests with the union folks and what not and the president kind of reiterated what he had said last time. He said, look, I understand that you, as governors, have some painful budget choices to make. That's fine. But don't denigrate unions. Don't denigrate public employees in this process, you know, because it's largely the unions for public employees, like teachers, that are involved in these protests in Wisconsin. Other states like Ohio as well.

But it's interesting that the president weighed in, but most interesting to me is that he's really not making a forceful case on that. He's just kind of mentioning it as an aside. There are probably some folks in the labor camp who would hope and wish that he was a little more full throated about that. It may be because this president realizes he has some real budget choices to make here in Washington as well and so he's balancing that, no doubt, in addition to the governors that are balancing it.


ROMANS: And on international issues, what's the White House saying now about the situation in Libya?

HENRY: Well, you know, Jay Carney had an off camera briefing today and the news out of that was him saying, look, the White House could see a scenario where Colonel Gadhafi winds up in exile. Maybe that might be a solution to this. He also said that the White House is looking at a no fly zone to potentially impose over Libya to put more pressure on Gadhafi.

Remember, late Friday night this is really the first chance for Jay Carney to address the media. By late Friday night the U.S. acted unilaterally to start imposing some sanctions and getting tough with Libya. Over the weekend we saw U.N. action as well. And this crisis continues.

Interesting, the president, just in about an hour or so, is meeting behind closed here with Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary- general. But they're closing that to TV cameras. You would think that would be the kind of event that would be open to the media, we could ask some questions. This is a humanitarian crisis right now. The White House closing that off to TV cameras, but Jay Carney commenting at least earlier today, not the president, but Jay Carney and saying that there are all kinds of options on the table right now.


ROMANS: All right, Ed Henry, thanks for coming out. Sounds like you're out there in the rain forest, Ed.

HENRY: You know, there's a tornado warning right now, too. But, you know, you said you needed me a little bit earlier than usual. I came out here for you, Christine.

ROMANS: Man, you are all business. You are -- you are one news machine.


ROMANS: All right, Ed Henry. Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Good seeing you.

ROMANS: A huge crowd, an escalator disaster, and chaos. There it is all caught on tape, next.


ROMANS: In case you're just joining us here's what you just missed. Look at this remarkable surveillance video showing what happened after an escalator collapsed in the Washington, D.C. subway. This happened last fall as a huge crowd was leaving the rally that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held on the National Mall.

The video has just been released. Four people were hurt. You can see people tumbling over each other, wow, in this video. D.C. Subway officials blamed the accident on a failure of the escalator braking system and they've stepped up the frequency of brake tests.

A huge landslide has left at least 800 families homeless in Bolivia. A hillside collapsed into a low income neighborhood after weeks of heavy rain and sudden seismic activities. Authorities were alerted by cracks in roads and bridges and managed to evacuate the neighborhood ahead of the landslide. Afterwards, the president visited a school that's serving as a temporary shelter and he promised government would help to rebuild the neighborhood.

Investigators are trying to find out what started this fire at an abandoned mill in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The police department is calling it suspicious. The building was supposed to have been demolished two weeks ago. Fire departments from a half dozen communities managed to keep the flames from spreading but nearby residents had to be evacuated because of thick smoke.

A powerful Arizona State senator allegedly used his legislative immunity to avoid arrest over the weekend. Police say Arizona Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard got into a fight with his girlfriend on a local freeway. Both apparently suffered minor injuries. While the girlfriend was jailed on suspicion of assault, police let the senator go. Under Arizona's State Constitution lawmakers generally can't be arrested while the legislature is in session. But they can face charges after it adjourns. The senator and his girlfriend say they're embarrassed and have decided to break up.

This laughing baby video has become an internet sensation. Ten- month-old Micah MacArthur (ph) of St. Louis apparently loves to see things ripped up. Ironically, this all started when Micah's father was looking for a job and tore up a rejection letter. Micah's reaction was so uproarious his father started ripping up other papers -- credit card bills, offers. The MacArthurs got out their camera and now the video has more than 210,000 page views. Some people have reportedly offer as much as $300 for the ownership of the video but the MacArthurs say no, it's just for fun.


ROMANS: Up next, hear from the man behind the movie "The Blind Side." Meet Michael Oher and hear what his latest project is all about.


ROMANS: Behind the award winning book and movie "The Blind Side" is the true story of Michael Oher, a young man who beat the odds and made it from homelessness to a lucrative career in professional football. You might be familiar with his journey but now for the first time he's sharing his story in his own words. He's joining me now.

Thanks for being here. Your book is called "I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond."

What's in here that we don't already know about you?

MICHAEL OHER, AUTHOR, "I BEAT THE ODDS": A lot of different things. It's totally different from "The Blind Side." There's nothing saying that "The Blind Side" was a lie or fake or correcting things like that. I started getting thousands of letters from people across the world telling me how much of a role model I was and how I inspired them to change their lives and that's really the only reason I wrote it, to give so many other people hope. ROMANS: And give it from your perspective, too. I mean, the movie, you know, that was the famous movie with Sandra Bullock was the Mom, Mrs. Tuohy. You know, that movie really catapulted your whole story to international stardom. You are a professional athlete. You are basically a star in your own right. This is your way of sort of -- and you're humble. Every time I tell him he's such a star he gets humble.

OHER: Yes.

ROMANS: But this is -- you wanted to write the pages for being a role model.

OHER: Yes, that's the number one thing. I know so many other people where I'm from need to lend a hand and they're not going to get the opportunity that I got. And just to, you know, give them hope like I said and let them know that it's a lot of other people out there that I care about them and, you know, just let them know they can succeed in life.

ROMANS: You can succeed in life. You went from homelessness all the way now you're a professional football player. Basically this movie also made you very famous even though you weren't even in the movie and the movie is about you.

What do you think for a young person who might be watching right now? What do you want them -- what kernel do you want them to take from their situation to try to make it like you made it?

OHER: I was in one of the worst situations there was, you know, coming from the neighborhood I grew up in and I know there are so many others out there. I grew with up them, not just athletes, doctors and lawyers. And just to let them know that it is possible.

ROMANS: You weren't the only one -- so you're saying there's a lot of different things that you can become.

OHER: Yes.

ROMANS: If you're not going to be a professional athlete, there are other things that can happen for you.

OHER: Yes. There are so many other doors that can be opened. I mean, teachers, you know, anything. Just anything not to get caught up in a cycle, you know, growing up, dropping out of school, getting involved in gangs, drugs, and the violence.

ROMANS: You just finished your second season with the Baltimore Ravens. What's next for you?

OHER: Hopefully just continuing to be a role model, continue to become the best player I can be. That's number one. Just keep changing lives.

ROMANS: Are you going to suit up this fall? What do you think the chances are that you guys all suit up this fall? We're all watching. Geeze, what's going to happen with the 2011 NFL season?

OHER: Our guys that are, you know, involved in it, they sent us an e-mail about it today. I think that we need -- everybody wants football and nobody wants to lose out. I think it'll be something. I think both sides are going to reach an agreement and hopefully we will be playing because nobody wants to go without.

ROMANS: Tell me about being just -- finally, you beat the odds, just the last bit about being a role model. I think there are so many negative things happening in the economy and worries about the American dream. You are the American dream. I mean, you are. You are.

OHER: Yes. It takes dedication. I think going way back to 1993, watching Michael Jordan and taking the motivation and the drive that he had. You know, I think it comes down to having positive influences in your life.

ROMANS: Like the Tuohys.

OHER: Yes, the Tuohys.

ROMANS: What are they doing now? I mean, you must be still very in touch with them, especially after the whole movie.

OHER: They're doing a lot of other things. Leann, she's doing a lot of different things. Everybody's doing positive things and helping out. Without them, I wouldn't be here.

ROMANS: All right. Michael Oher. The book is called "I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond."

Really nice to meet you.

OHER: Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Thanks for coming by.

OHER: Thank you.

ROMANS: Awesome.

Right now robots can think for themselves. They can make decisions, they can move on their own. But what if they could actually feel? Today's "Big I" is all about robot's skin. I'm not kidding. Coming up right after this quick break.


International pressure is mounting on embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today bluntly told Gadhafi that he must step down now. And she warned of possible severe consequences if he failed to do so. Clinton spoke today at a U.N. human rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: As we move forward on these fronts, we will continue to explore all possible options for action. As we have said, nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyans.


ROMANS: In the newest efforts to cut Gadhafi's hold on power the European Union today, adopted an arms embargo and other sanctions against Libya. And yet, another bizarre statement from Gadhafi. In an interview with the BBC and ABC, Gadhafi said, quote, "All my people love me and that they would die to protect him." And he again blamed the revolt on people high on drugs supplied by Osama bin Laden. But on the ground in Libya rebels and forces loyal to Gadhafi remain locked in a deadly standoff.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us from Libya's capital Tripoli. Nic, what's happening there right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, if you go sort of 40 minutes' drive outside of the capital here you've got a main, important industrial town where there's oil refining. And the center of that town is controlled by anti-government elements, armed anti-government elements. And around that town you've got an army standoff and in between it's a very tense situation. No side seems to want to take on the other at the moment.

In the capital here, though, it's a very different picture. Over the last couple days we've seen more traffic come out on the streets, more people come out on the streets. A lot of the stores are still closed. But what Moammar Gadhafi is trying to do here by giving people $300 stipends to ostensibly get them through hard financial times and perhaps win over their support, is to show that life is normal.

It isn't normal. The anti-government protesters we've managed to talk to here tell us security is so tight they can't get out and protest. They feel they are losing their momentum here. But it is in Tripoli in the capital almost as if it's an island in a sea of what else is happening around the rest of the country, although government officials would deny it and say that they control three-quarters of the country. But the capital itself does seem to be sort of getting back to something a little more like normal. Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Shifting now to the Gulf state of Oman. For the third straight day, anti-government protesters in the streets blocking roads and the second-largest port and main industrial center. Yesterday, witnesses say two people were killed in clashes with security forces. The government confirms only one death.

All of this comes after Oman's ruler promised to hire 50,000 people, pay a stipend to those out of work. Until now, Oman has avoided the unrest that has swept North Africa and the Middle Eas, but the demands are similar. Greater freedom of expression, higher salaries, an end to government corruption, and the prosecution of security officials responsible for the deaths of protesters. Checking our top stories. Huge wildfires in Texas are being blamed for the death of a five-year-old child. Officials say the child was killed in an eight-vehicle wreck on Interstate 20 in Midland. Low visibility was cited as a contributing factor. Some 25 fires have destroyed some 60 homes and burned more than 120,000 acres in 15 counties.

In Wisconsin a symbolic victory of sorts for opponents of Governor Scott Walker's attempt to reduce collective bargaining rights for public workers. Police allowed protesters to spend another night in the Capitol building in Madison, and they vow to sit tight. Officials are trying to clean the building by tomorrow when Walker is expected to deliver to lawmakers his plan to cut the state's huge budget deficit. Opponents say he is simply trying to bust unions.

You're looking at live pictures of two spacewalking astronauts outside the international space station. Steve Bohn and Alvin Drew are about halfway through their scheduled six-hour walk to install an extension cable and to move a broken ammonia pump to a better storage location. They arrived at the space station on the shuttle discovery which is on its 39th and final space mission. The arrived at the space station on shuttle Discovery, which is in its 39th and final space mission.

Take a look at this stunning picture. Discovery in flight just minutes after blast off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida last Thursday. It was taken by a passenger on a jetliner that had just taken off from Orlando. Not your everyday flight. Right?

Everyday on this show at this time, we do a segment called "The Big I." It's all about big new ideas and innovations.

All right. How about this? Skin for a robot that can actually feel touch, sense chemicals, and is solar powered? This incredible invention comes from researchers at Stanford University. The skin is stretchable. It can expand and shrink, which makes it a perfect fit for robots. Touch screen displays and human prosthetic limbs. The skin is made of highly elastic rubber with electric sensors on the edges. The thin film of rubber is molded into a grid of tiny pyramids.

It is so sensitive it can detect the weight of a butterfly. The skin has also been modified to detect chemicals by adding a biological coding to the skin. And in another brilliant move, they also added a flexible solar cell layer to help generate power. You can see variations of this skin for cars, military vehicles, maybe even clothing.

To check out the latest research on the robot skin for yourself, you can head to Ali's blog,

His gorgeous gowns are worn by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but some very ugly allegations could have a fashion bigwig in some big-time trouble. What he allegedly said that got him suspended, and the new video that threatens his career. Next.



ROMANS: Yes. It's tough when you see water like that rising, especially if you're not living right next to a river even. I mean, you start to se tributaries and creeks start to come up. It's just tough.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Chad Myers. That's in Pittsburgh, that flooding there.

Iowa a pretty popular place this time of year. CNN's Wolf Blitzer joins me now from Washington for a CNN Political Update. What is it with the Hawk Eye state, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You know, it's less than a year now before the Iowa caucuses and Republican hopefuls, Republican presidential candidates, are going there. Newt Gingrich is going in the coming days. Next Monday, he'll be there. We're told, by the way, that probably this week, he'll make it clear that he's creating some sort of exploratory committee to run for president. Newt Gingrich going to be in Iowa at this event next week. A lot of Republicans heading to Iowa.

Sarah Palin, she's not necessarily heading to Iowa right away, but there's a new poll in "The Des Moines Register" which suggests there's a slight little reduction in support among likely Republican voters in Iowa this year as opposed to the last time they did this poll back in 2009. The poll has a seven percent margin of error, so it's not necessarily precise. But in November 2009, 71 percent had a very favorable - or a favorable view of Sarah Palin. That's down to 65 percent. And in the same poll, very favorably, it dropped nine points from 27 percent to 18 percent. But she's still pretty popular as you can see among Republicans in Iowa, presumably if she decides to run for president, she'd do very well in the Iowa caucuses.

A third Republican, Mike Huckabee, he's going to announce presumably in the summer. He's waiting as long as he can to announce because he would have to give up a lot of income if he announced earlier. He's selling his book. He's out on his book tour. Not necessarily going to every big city market, but he is going to six cities in Iowa to sell his new book. He's out there all of this week, going to be in Waterloo, Davenport, Dubuque. Also, Cedar Rapids, Iowa city. West Des Moines. Christine, not exactly places you'd go to sell a book in a normal situation. This is hardly anything but normal.

All of them, by the way, Christine, are Fox News contributors. And the moment they announce they're running for president, any news organization has to sever their relationships, their financial relationships, with these candidates, these three potential Republican presidential candidates. They're making at least hundreds of thousands of dollars a year working for Fox. So, they'd have to give up the income. That's why, for example, Mike Huckabee, he wants to delay it as long as he can, to not give up that income. He's not necessarily all that rich of a guy to begin with.

ROMANS: All right. Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much, Wolf.

The mystique of Iowa this time of year. Iowa in February.

Your next update from The Best Political Team on Television is just an hour away.

Charlie Sheen's all shook up. He's talking about his battle against CBS with almost everyone except CBS. Charlie Sheen, more on him. That's next.


ROMANS: Hollywood held its biggest bash of the year last night, but stealing the spotlight today, Charlie Sheen's bash on CBS. The fiery actor isn't backing down from his fight with the network after it yanked production of "Two and a Half Men" last week. Sheen's wicked war of wars started on radio today turned to television. He told ABC the only drug he's high on is himself.


CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen. And it's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body. Too much?

So, it's -- yes, no, it's just I -- again, I woke up and decided, you know, I've been kicked around, I've been criticized, like, the "aw, shucks" guy with like, this bitching rock star life, and I'm just finally going to completely embrace it, wrap both arms around it and love it violently.


ROMANS: Sheen told NBC he would consider doing another season of his show, but only if CBS coughs up 3 million per episode. That's a million more than he's making now.

Now to the Oscars, where Sheen showed up as the butt of a joke when co-host James Franco on stage appeared in drag. (INAUDIBLE), aside, the show was all about honoring Hollywood royalty. In fact, royalty reigned supreme. "The King's Speech" snagged four Oscars. Best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best actor for Colin Firth, his first. Say that three times fast.

It was also a first for Hollywood queen Natalie Portman. She took home best actress for her role in "Black Swan." For a full list of winners, you can check out