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Thousands Trying to Flee Libya; Scholarships for White Males Only; Hundreds Arrested in Gang Probe

Aired March 1, 2011 - 14:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get back to the situation at the Tunisian border we were telling you about. CNN's Arwa Damon joins me from Djerba, Tunisia for today's "Two at the Top."

Arwa, you've just returned from the Tunisia/Libyan border. What do you see?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, it really is a tragic and desperate situation there. Thousands, if not more, are trapped in no-man's-land between Libya and Tunisia, so desperate to get across, they were literally trampling on top of one another, suitcases being passed overhead as the Tunisian authorities had put across a metal gate people were climbing over.

We saw one man collapse right in front of that gate. He was buckling underneath the weight of his suitcase on his head, and eventually could not deal with the crush of people behind him. As he was being revived by the medics, they said to them, "Look, you're safe, you're in Tunisia. Everything is going to be OK." But he was so hysterical, that he could not even tell anyone what his name was.

People there, increasingly highlighting the fact that this is not just a humanitarian crisis, but, as the U.N. said, it risks turning into a humanitarian catastrophe within days. This effort to try to help people coming across has largely been led by the Tunisians, the military, the police. But also, by and large, by Tunisians NGOs, volunteers from around the area, across the country, coming forward, bringing in food and water. But they simply cannot handle the flow of people.

Yesterday, Monday, saw 14,000 people crossing in the span of just 12 hours. The U.N. was expecting that same number, if not a higher one, coming today.

And when these people reach the Tunisian side of the border, they quite simply don't have anywhere to go. We've seen tents going up, but a lot of them are forced to sleep on the sidewalks, on the pavement. Not exactly sure how they're going to get back to their homeland.

A lot of them, Egyptians. We also saw a number of Bangladeshis and other non-Arab nationals that were stuck in this no-man's land holding up signs saying, "Help, help, help," begging for the United Nations to step in. One man, on the verge of tears, saying, "We just have one message, please save us" -- Christine. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Arwa Damon.

Thank you so much, Arwa. Be safe out there. Thanks.

Now to central Florida, where rain brought some relief for exhausted firefighters and wary residents. This was the wall of fire and flames firefighters battled in Brevard and Volusia Counties overnight before rains moved through.

Stiff winds, only stoking the flames that scorched more than 10,000 acres. Flames and smoke so severe, that nearly 20 miles of I- 95 had to be shut down. Thankfully, though, that stretch of highway has reopened today.


ROMANS: OK. Are you ready for $4 gas prices? They are here. Take a look at this. More than $4 a gallon for premium unleaded at a gas station in Los Angeles.

The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, who testified before the Senate Banking Committee today, he acknowledged consumers are feeling the pinch with higher gas and higher food prices, but he says not enough of a pinch to hurt the economy. He did warn, though, that sustained higher costs could have a serious impact.

It's D-Day in Wisconsin. Republican Governor Scott Walker is set to unveil his controversial new budget later today after weeks of protests.

That proposal cuts $1 billion in state spending for local communities and school districts. It also slashes collective bargaining rights for public workers. Hundreds of protesters remain inside the capitol.

Activists are also crowding the state house now in Columbus, Ohio, today. They're rallying against a proposal by Governor John Kasich that restricts union bargaining rights as well. Ohio's Senate could vote on that bill as early as tomorrow. An assembly hearing is set for this afternoon on that.

It's a story that has our blog buzzing, a new nonprofit that's offering scholarships to white men only. Is it merely helping a group of students in need, or is it going too far?

And we want you to join the debate to share your thoughts on the controversial scholarship program. You can head to our blog, You can also post on Ali's Facebook and Twitter pages, and mine as well.


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 might surprise you -- white males. That's right, exclusively white men only who maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

The nonprofit group called the Former Majority Association for Equality, it was started by Colby Bohannan, an Iraq War veteran and a student at Texas State University.

I talked with him yesterday about why he started this program.


COLBY BOHANNAN, PRESIDENT, FORMER MAJORITY ASSOCIATION FOR EQUALITY: This is a very abrasive subject in America, and one of the first things that we wrote on our Web site, 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 supremacist group, 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: This is a story that has our blog buzzing. In just 24 hours, that story has become the most looked at story of the week and one of the most looked at so far this year.

So what are your thoughts about scholarships exclusively for white males? The overwhelming majority of you supported the idea.

Travis said, "There is nothing wrong with this idea. The fact that someone has finally realized the problem is a great step forward."

Nelson wrote, "I am a proud Hispanic. I don't see anything wrong with an all white male scholarship. I've heard of every type of scholarship program out there to help every race. It is only fair."

Rick blogs, "I got a scholarship for being left-handed. I think private groups should be able to fund scholarships for any reason they choose. This is a free society after all, right?"

J. Patton though didn't like the idea, and commented, "This organization has taken the country back 50 years instead of moving us forward."

So, do you agree with what people are saying? We want to know what you think. Head to our blog,, to join this discussion. You can also post on Ali's Facebook and Twitter pages, and mine as well.

She fought the IRS and won. We're going to tell you what somebody named "Chesty Love" was able to deduct. And if you haven't guessed already, you can imagine.

And some other unexpected things you might be able to itemize on your tax return.


ROMANS: We are just getting word of hundreds of arrests targeting gangs and drug traffickers across the country.

Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us now.

So this is Homeland Security and Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Right, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And 173 different law enforcement partners across the country, they announced today the arrest of 678 individuals affiliated with 133 different gangs. Forty-six percent of the people they arrested, associated with drug organizations associated with Mexican cartels.

A lot of these people have violent pasts, in addition to drugs. Some of them traffic in weapons, some of them in human trafficking. So a wide array of people arrested in this particular roundup, which started back in December of 2010.

Now, a lot of questions today for the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement about whether this roundup was related to the killing last month of ICE agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico. In fact, this roundup started before then, a law enforcement official tells me. There is no direct tie to Zapata's killing.

However, on that front, there is a new development. Law enforcement sources tell us that three individuals have been arrested in Texas. They were picked up yesterday. They are people who are associated with the purchase of weapons that are then smuggled to Mexico. One of those weapons now associated with the death of Zapata.

Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: You know, Jeanne, it's interesting. If this administration wants to pursue comprehensive immigration reform on its agenda further down the road, these are the kinds of raids and the kinds of enforcement that they're going to have to show that they're trying to crack down on the criminal elements within the Mexican drug trafficking groups that are operating within American cities, aren't they?

MESERVE: They are. And they've been trying to do a lot in that regard. They've really focused on removing the criminal aliens. ICE has put a special emphasis on that.

And I would say that the arrests today bring to over 20,000 the number of gang members who have been arrested since 2005. So part of a much broader effort here to deal with this problem.

They say they're trying to deal with it aggressively. Of course, there are plenty of critics, particularly on Capitol Hill and in some of the border states, who say they still are not doing enough. They have to spend even more effort getting this criminal effort under control and hopefully out of the country -- Christine.

ROMANS: Incarcerated or out of the country, depending on whether they're convicted in all that.

OK. Jeanne Meserve, thank you so much.

This year's deadline to file your taxes is April 18th, and a lot of folks are just going to spend those three extra days looking for extra deductions that might apply. Now, the IRS sees plenty of -- I guess you could call it creative accounting, but there actually are some valid deductions that you'd never, ever expect.

Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff joins us now with some of the best deductions you've ever seen.

Hi there, Allan.


Well, if you have a nontraditional job, you can come up with some very, very unusual deductions, because the tax code says if you are spending money that helps you to earn taxable income, then those expenditures can be deductible.




CHERNOFF (voice-over): Yes, those are deductible. As exotic dancer Chesty Love told Jerry Springer, she fought the IRS and won.

"CHESTY LOVE," FOUGHT IRS: I was my own attorney. I represented myself.

CHERNOFF: The U.S. Tax Court ruled her breast implants were a stage prop that boosted her income and, therefore, deductible as a business expense.

"CHESTY LOVE": My breasts are very, very much a part of my job. My salary as a dancer went up in direct proportion to the size of the chest.

CHERNOFF (on camera): No matter how off-beat the profession, the tax code encourages us to earn money so the IRS can collect more. So for those who learn a living as Elvis impersonators? Yes, the costume is deductible.

(voice-over): Business expenses can take many forms. There's the case of a junk yard that was infested with rats and snakes. The owner deducted the cost of cat food he put out each night to attract felines to take care of the pests.

Criminals are supposed to report their income from illegal activities. IRS Publication 17 says it goes on Form 1040, Line 21. So criminal enterprises are allowed to deduct the cost of business expenses, like buying guns.

EVAN SNAPPER, ACCOUNTANT: A drug dealer should, under the regulations, report the cost of his inventory, the drugs that he's purchasing for resell, the cost of the guns to protect the inventory. The cost of the suitcases to carry it. You would put all of that on a tax return.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Odds are you're not engaged inside a legal or bizarre activities to earn a living. Even so, the same principle for deductions applies. Money spent to earn taxable income can be written off.

So, for example, if you have a home office that occupies, say, 10 percent of your house, 10 percent of the operating expenses, heat, electricity, even outdoor landscaping can be written off.

(voice-over): Some taxpayers, though, have taken it a bit too far. The IRS has disallowed attempts to deduct hot tubs and pools for those claiming the home office deduction.


CHERNOFF: And there are many other cases of taxpayers being a little bit too aggressive, including the recent case of a TV anchorwoman who tried to deduct the cost of her underwear.

Christine, perhaps if she had been an underwear model, the IRS might have said OK -- Christine.

ROMANS: Oh, my goodness.

All right. So, Allan, how does the IRS determine if the expense then is legitimately for a job?

CHERNOFF: It's got to be something specifically for the job. So, for example, if I tried to deduct the cost of this suit, that wouldn't fly. I could wear this suit for many things. But say that CNN required me to buy a professional video camera, that would be deductible.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. So, Ms. Chesty Love, she was able to fight the IRS. How do you do that?

CHERNOFF: Well, you can argue with the IRS. And if that doesn't work, you can definitely go to court, just like Chesty Love did.

And, in fact, there are three different courts. You can go to the regular federal court system, U.S. District Court. You can go to the Court of Federal Claims, which sits only in D.C. That's for really big cases. And then you can go to the U.S. Tax Court.

By the way, the small claims division there, under $50,000, you don't even need a lawyer. It's quite informal. But if you lose, you can't appeal.

ROMANS: All right. Allan Chernoff, a very eye-opening segment. Thank you, sir. Really appreciate it. has an entire section dedicated to your taxes -- who says taxes are boring? -- with explainers, info on tax breaks, a whole lot more there.

Please go to You can click on "Taxes" under the personal finance tab.

All right. Twenty-one minutes after the hour. Time to check other top stories we're watching.

The Navy now has three warships standing by in the Mediterranean just in case they're needed for operations involving Libya. The Obama administration says all options are on the table right now. The humanitarian crisis is growing, with thousands of refugees massed on the borders after fleeing the violence.

The House is expected to vote today on a new spending measure that could keep the government running past Friday's deadline. But the new bill is only a two-week extension, which means Democrats and Republicans would still have to hash out a more permanent compromise to avoid a government shutdown. Both sides still pretty far apart on proposed cuts as part of a more comprehensive spending plan.

Major highways have reopened in Florida today as the danger from a fast-moving wildfire seems to be dying down slightly. U.S. 1 and I- 95 are open again in east and central Florida. Rain slowed the 10,000-acre fire, but hundreds of homes still in harm's way south of Daytona Beach.

Next, can you guess the most flirtatious city in the world? We'll give you a hint. It is not Paris.



ROMANS: All right. Let's go "Off the Radar" now.


ROMANS: We teased you about the most flirtatious city in the world.

It is not Paris.

MYERS: It is not Paris. It is Athens --

ROMANS: Really? MYERS: -- Georgia.


MYERS: No. Athens, Greece. They are among the big top winners.

There are other big winners, too. In Rome, of course, and all that. But Moscow, number two. Wouldn't get that. Rome, 8.

So the City of Love and the City of Lights, Paris -- 38?

ROMANS: Look at New York, 89. It's like, dude, get out of my way.

MYERS: You know why? Because New Yorkers don't flirt. Literally, they say are going from one avenue to the next, and they don't even look.

ROMANS: We're very direct in New York. Very direct.

MYERS: This was actually all put together by How many people on their Web site per day or per month are flirting with someone they actually don't know?

ROMANS: Interesting.

MYERS: A hundred and eight million people on this Web site flirting back and forth, or doing whatever they do. I'm not sure --

ROMANS: Whatever it is that they do do.

MYERS: Or whatever they do do.


ROMANS: On Badoo. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

MYERS: Bada bing. So there you go, Athens, Greece.

ROMANS: All right.

MYERS: I think Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, they all knew that. They knew.

ROMANS: That's true. You got it. You got it.

All right. Chad Myers.

Thanks so much, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

ROMANS: Christina Aguilera spent part of the night in police custody. What happened there? What you missed, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Now some stories you may have missed.

A woman apparently infected with measles in Europe may have exposed some fellow Americans to the disease. Officials say she arrived back in America at Dulles Airport, outside Washington, on February 20th. She remained in the D.C. area for two days.

On February 22nd, she boarded a flight from BWI Airport to Denver, where she was transferred to a flight for Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was then hospitalized in New Mexico and is recovering from the measles at home. People she came in contact with who have not been vaccinated are at risk for the measles over the next two weeks.

Opening statements are set to start today in the Arizona "Sweat Lodge" trial. James Arthur Ray is charged with manslaughter in three deaths linked to a sweat lodge ceremony during a 2009 retreat. Ray, a self-help author and speaker, led that ceremony. Prosecutors says the lodge was heated to a dangerously high temperature and they claimed that Ray pressured participants to remain inside.

A famed fashion house is getting ready to fire its head designer because of what it calls his "deeply offensive statements." Christian Dior says it's started termination proceedings against John Galliano. A video reportedly made at a Paris cafe last year appears to show Galliano praising Adolf Hitler and making anti-Semitic comments.

Negotiations continue today in a bid to avert a pro-football lockout. The National Football League's current agreement with its players expires Thursday night. Players they expect to be locked out if there's no sign of progress toward a new agreement.

Police took Christina Aguilera into custody early this morning after a traffic stop in West Hollywood. The pop star was a passenger in a car driven by her rumored boyfriend, Matthew Rutler. The driver was booked for drunken driving. Police say Aguilera had been drinking too, and was taken into custody for her own safety. She was later released.


ROMANS: The Obama administration considering military options as a means of protecting the Libyan people and forcing Moammar Gadhafi from power. Warships and planes have been moved near Libya, and a specific option under consideration is a no-fly zone to keep Gadhafi's planes out of the air to knock out his air defenses.

Joining me for more on this is CNN International anchor and reporter Michael Holmes. What do you think of all this talk of possible moves by the U.S.?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, possible is the right word. You know, I think, Christine, that this could well be some saber rattling. It does put pressure on him, and that's for sure, but it's a complicated thing to set up. There's a lot that goes into setting up a no-fly zone. And the NATO wouldn't want to do it without a U.N. resolution, for starters.

So, would the UK and U.S. go it alone on this sort of scenario? Seen them do it in Iraq before. It's a big deal to do that. And once again, we come back to that thing where U.S. doesn't want to been seen to look like it's putting its stamp on a revolution in another country when the opposition really wants to own this themselves.

ROMANS: What do you have on the rebel forces?

HOLMES: They're not an organized group per se. This is not an army that's about to go marching on Tripoli, although there is talk of some of these forces wanting to do so. They're not that organized. Certainly in the east there's a lot of social organization going on. There have been, as I said, some reports that some want to advance on the capital. Hasn't happened yet.

And there would be serious doubts about their ability to take on Gadhafi's forces militarily in the sense of a traditional sort of assault on the city or anything. It has to come from within, probably.

ROMANS: The trouble here is letting this thing drag on for too long. You know, what are the risks? We're hearing people saying you've got to ended bloodshed quickly.

HOLMES: It seems the bloodshed has slowed down a little at the moment. We've heard people talk about things like stalemates. It makes me want to say, hang on just a minute. It's only been a few days. This is not gone on that long, really, when you think about revolutions that can go on for months or even longer. And I think we tend to be a little bit impatient when it comes to these sorts of things.

The momentum has slowed in Tripoli for sure. Let's remember there's always the scenario here that Gadhafi could have some negotiations with the opposition, bring in a U.N. observer group or something. He could get through this, you know. That is an option. It doesn't look like at the moment, it could happen.

ROMANS: What about al Qaeda? What kind of influence or lack of influence does al Qaeda have here -

HOLMES: Oh, they missed the boat. Yes.

ROMANS: This whole thing, everything that's happening in the whole region must be a huge blow to the power of al Qaeda to unify people. Because people are backing democracy in their own rights, not the al Qaeda-style Middle East.

HOLMES: Couple of things. Al Qaeda missed the boat on this, just like everyone else did. Just like those in the West. They'll be wanting to jump in on this. They're coming late to the party, mayeb, but they'll want to get involved in this.

It's worth remembering that none of these uprisings have sorted themselves outs yet. We don't know what new governments or leaderships are going to look like. It's going to be a very different Middle East. And what the danger is, I think, for the West is al Qaeda will take advantage of any sort of prolonged instability. And any disappointment by populations that not enough is being done quickly enough. So, they're ready to pounce. It's just -- nobody knows how all of this is going to shake out.

ROMANS: Last hour, we talked to Arwa Damon from the border of Tunisia and Libya. She said people, frankly, there are desperate. They're asking for help. They're saying, we need help. I mean, what about that crisis there and what they're doing with the refugees?

HOLMES: Tens of thousands of people pouring across the border into Tunisia where Arwa is, and they're also going across the eastern border as well into Egypt. Aid groups are saying that it is reaching crisis point, and food aid is getting in. But it's a huge concentration of people when a very small part of Tunisia, in particular. And they need a lot of help, a lot of things like shelter. Food is getting in, but it's a crisis developing.

ROMANS: Let's turn now to I guess a somber kind of marker. A week now since the tragic earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. What are they doing today?

HOLMES: Well, they did mark it, Christine, with a two-minute silence to really pay homage to those who lost their lives. 155 dead is the total so far. It is going to go up. There's still 100 or so missing there.

Interesting, you don't see this happen in many countries. Because of the -- the forces there, the rescue operations being so stretched thin, 330 Australian police officers have actually been sworn in to the New Zealand police force.

ROMANS: Oh, really?

HOLMES: Yes. To help out with law and order and just keep things running in the city, which is pretty extraordinary. You don't see that happen very often, do you? Police --

ROMANS: No, you don't.

HOLMES: There is a bit of frustration now a week into it. A lot of people want to get to their vehicles, get to their businesses. The city -- large chunks of the city still cordoned off. It really rocked what is a beautiful, beautiful city.

ROMANS: Right. Are there still concerns about aftershocks at this point? Is that what's holding back some of the - at least, the recovery - because it's not rescue anymore. It's recovery.

HOLMES: Yes. It is recovery. No, there are aftershocks going on. There's an very expensive suburb just outside Christchurch which looks out onto the ocean. Beautiful piece of property there. And a lot of people, dozens of people, had to evacuate yesterday because of aftershocks. There were fears -- it's on a hill - fears that it could all break away. ROMANS: A lot of people still missing. You have folks that want to put closure to this whole thing. At the same time, they're still - a week on -- still very much in it.

HOLMES: Yes. They're watching disease as well because, of course, that's always a risk when you have bodies lying around.

ROMANS: All right. Michael Holmes. "Globetrekking" for us. Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Good to see you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're paying a lot more for gas these days, so someone is making a lot more money, right? But who? Up next on the "Big Breakdown," we'll tell you where every cent you pay for a gallon of gas goes.


ROMANS: With gas prices back in the news and back in the sky- high range, it's easy to get fuming mad when the stations are selling gas and it feels like robbing you blind, right? But they're not the ones to blame, and they're certainly not the ones making a big profit.

In today's "Big Breakdown," I want to show you where your money is actually going when you fill up your tank. First, take a look at this. Gas prices nationwide average about $3.17 a gallon in - in January. That's a 14 percent jump from last year -- when the price was around $2.75 a gallon. And they keep going higher.

So, what's driving the increase and where is all that money going? Well, most of it, 67 percent, goes directly to the crude oil suppliers. This amount is determined largely by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. The amount of crude oil produced by OPEC helps determine the price of a barrel of oil.

Then there's the refining cost. This accounts for about 11 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas. Crude oil must go through the refining process in order to become gasoline.

Then comes the distribution and marketing. After the crude oil is refined, it's shipped to distribution points and then, it goes to the gas stations. The companies then promote their gasoline with advertising. Combined, those costs account for about nine percent of the gallon of gas.

And finally, there's the tax. The U.S. government taxes gas, and so do state and local governments. Together, those taxes account for about 13 percent of the cost.

OK, you got all that? When the gas finally makes it to your town, the local gas owner makes about a few pennies per gallon. That's just a few pennies. Something to think about the next time you fill up. That's today's "Big Breakdown."

All right. Everyday here on the show, we have a segment called "You Choose." We give you three story headlines, and then you vote on which ones you want to see next. Your first option, TSA agents actually searched passengers after they arrived at their destination. Your second option, a teacher fired because of a bumper sticker she had on her car. And your final option, a good Samaritan goes extra measures to return a stolen car.

Head to Ali's blog, to vote. We'll bring you the winning story in about ten minutes. Once again, go to to vote.

All right. Our blog is being slammed by viewers interested in this story. A group in Texas is offering scholarships exclusively to white men. We're tackling the controversial issue with our Stream Team. That's next. You don't miss it.


ROMANS: Time now for our Stream Team. This is a story that has our blog buzzing. In just 24 hours, this story has become the most looked at story of the week and one of the most looked at for the year. A new group in Texas is offering scholarships to a demographic that just might surprise you. White males. Exclusively white men only who maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

The nonprofit group called the Former Majority Association for Equality was started by Colby Bohannan, an Iraq war veteran and a student at Texas State University. I talked to him yesterday about why he started this program. Listen.


COLBY BOHANNAN, PRESIDENT, FORMER MAJORITY ASSOCIATION FOR EQUALITY: This is a very abrasive subject in America. And one of the first things we wrote on our Web site, 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 supremacist 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: All right. Let's bring in our Stream Team to discuss the controversial scholarships.

CNN contributor Erick Erickson and White House correspondent for the America Urban Radio Network, April Ryan.

The vast majority of the comments we got on the blog support the scholarship, and these are people of all different ages and races. Nelson wrote, "I'm a proud Hispanic. I don't see anything wrong with an all-white male scholarship. I've heard of every type of scholarship program out there to help every race, so it's only fair."

April, let's start with you, because you are shaking your -- you do not like this! This is not a good idea. You don't like it.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICA URBAN RADIO NETWORK: Once we start down this road, I mean, you may as well start back into saying, OK, whites-only water fountains and whites-only buildings again.

I have an eight-year-old child who's asking me now, "Mommy, tell me about what happened back then." I mean, we're reverting instead of going forward. And this is basically something -- he can say it's not about race. It's about race and gender. It's definitely targeting white men. What about a Hispanic woman? What about an African- American woman? We're not allowed. What about a black man? What about a Hispanic man? Not allowed.

ROMANS: But you know, April, what he says is there's already scholarships for all those people. There's scholarships for people with left hands, there's scholarships for people who are tall, there's scholarships for people who are Lutheran, Catholic.

He's saying with the way -- he also says he's not looking to the past. He's looking to the future. A future where the majority becomes the minority. And in Texas, that's already happening in some cases. April, do you see? He thinks there's a hole that needs to be filled, and it just makes it fair.

RYAN: Our past determines our future. Let's go back to Brown v. Board of Education. They used that in the Supreme Court to correct a wrong. Need I say more?

Now, this seems more social than it is anything else. And we're living in an era of inclusion. Now, scholarships by themselves are a great tool, a financial tool, to move people toward in education and to gain middle-class or upper-income status.

But when you talk about this and relegating it to one section, we're going backward in a society. I mean, let's talk about -- if you want to do something, let's have a bridge grant for all students, not just white males. I mean, this is really it go being backwards to me.

ROMANS: OK, so Erick, let me ask you because our response to this was overwhelmingly positive. People who said, look, we need more money for college, we've got all kinds of different kinds of scholarships out there. There's even a scholarship for students who love "Star Trek."

Rick wrote on the blog, "I got a scholarship for being left- handed. I think private groups should be able to fund scholarships for any reason they choose." What do you think, Erick? Isn't this just another in a multitude of specific scholarships for lots of different kinds of people?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, absolutely. It is. If we're going to get rid of scholarships for African-Americans and get rid of scholarships for Hispanics and get rid of scholarships for Asians and get rid of scholarships for women, then let's get rid of the scholarships. But if we're not going to get rid of those, then let's keep this one.

Let's not forget that whites in Appalachia are one of the poorest demographics in the entire region. There are very few scholarships that cater toward them. This scholarship apparently would. If we're going to get rid of the others, let's get rid of this one. But if we're not going to get rid of those, then there's no sense in getting rid of this one.

ROMANS: But Erick, don't you think --- this is a little bit different. Because we have a history that's tortured and painful in this country that makes, even today when you start talking about a white-male only scholarship it makes people kind of cringe. Because there was a time when white men frankly ruled this country and had all of the access, and the reason why we have all of these --


ERICKSON: Absolutely. But they don't anymore. You can justify that, for example, a scholarship for African-Americans, given the history of this country. But can you for Asians or Hispanics or for women? Now we've reached the point in Texas, at least, where the white men are no longer the majority in Texas.

ROMANS: April, go right ahead, my dear.

RYAN: Let me say this, Erick. Let's go back to the Bush years. President Bush -- then-President Bush dealt with - he gave an amicus brief, a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court on the University of Michigan case where they were dealing with preferential admissions. He did not like that. He did not like legacy. He did not like preferential treatment for certain students to come in. Let's level the playing field. Let's not do this.

ROMANS: All right, guys. Thank you so much --

ERICKSON: Oh, I agree with April on that. But the problem is, we're not going to get rid of those other scholarships.

ROMANS: All right. Erick Erickson --

RYAN: But let's make them fair.

ROMANS: -- and April Ryan. Thank you, both of you. This is a passionate subject. Please, let's go to Join the discussion. Thank you, both of you. I really appreciate it.

We also want to hear what you have to say about this. So, go there, You can also post on Ali's Facebook and Twitter page. Mine as well. I'm @ChristineRomans.

Time now for a CNN political update. CNN senior political editor Mark Preston and CNN deputy political editor (sic) Paul Steinhauser join me from Washington.

I'll start with you, Mark. What's crossing the ticker right now, Mark?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Christine. Just in, here's the intersection of three major industries, business, politics and Hollywood. The Motion Picture Association of America has just named Chris Dodd as its new head of its Washington office. The MPAA is the trade group that looks out for all things politics here in Washington for the six largest Hollywood studios. So, Chris Dodd, who served in Congress from 1974 until he left just back at the beginning of this year will now head up those efforts.

The big political story right now, Christine, is Newt Gingrich. And as our own Peter Hamby reports, he will form a presidential exploratory committee on Thursday. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who stepped down 1998, has been active in conservative circles, has run a bunch of nonprofit groups. But listen to what he said when he stepped down as speaker of the Hosue back in 1998. "It is time for me to move forward where I believe I still have a significant role to play for our country and our party."

So, right now, Christine, it looks like he think that is the time he's going to play that significant role. But what do Americans think about Newt Gingrich? Let's turn to Paul and see what he has, according to the poll numbers.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLTICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you, Mark. We did a poll Christine, late in January, a horse race poll. We put out a bunch of names who people who may run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Take a look at this. Gingrich right up there near the top, in fourth place in our poll, right around 10 percent. Christine, just about every poll that's been done nationally in the horse race, Gingrich is pretty high in those poll numbers. He's right around fourth or fifth place in low double-digits.

Take a look at the next number as well. This is interesting. What do Americans think specifically about Gingrich? Or specifically, Republicans. Look at that. A majority of them, almost six out of ten, have a favorable opinion of Gingrich. Only about one in four Republicans have an unfavorable.

And not too many are unsure of New Gingrich. Why? Christine, he's been around for awhile. Most Americans, Republicans for sure, know Newt Gingrich. That may help but also may hurt him as he runs for the White House if he formally declares down the road. Christine?

ROMANS: You know, not on that list of names is Herman Cain, someone who has been getting a lot of press this week. He's a business guy, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. I mean, is he still pretty much an outlier you think?

STEINHAUSER: He is not very well known to most Americans. Herman Cain was the first Republican to formally jump into the race. He did that back in January by announcing a exploratory committee.

Remember, though, these national polls, take them with a grain of salt. At this early date, they're basically beauty contests. It really will matter in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire. The early states. So, those will be the polls to look at later this year.

ROMANS: Mm, I like that. Political beauty contests. That's awesome. All right. Paul Steinhauser, Mark Preston. Thanks, guys.

Remember the supercomputer that took on two humans in Jeopardy a couple of weeks ago? Its latest opponent, the United States Congress! Last night, some brave members of Congress squared against IBM's Watson in D.C. for an informal battle of the minds. In the first round, Representative Rush Holt, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, they competed with a slightly slower version of the computer. Holt is a five-time Jeopardy champion, in case you didn't know. After beating Watson $8,600 to $6,200, Holt expressed admiration for the machine saying the technology has the potential to be extremely helpful in situations that require tough decision making.

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

We're still taking your vote on the "You Choose" segment of the day. You can choose from TSA agents actually searching passengers after they arrive at the destination, or a teacher is fired because of the bumper sticker on her car or a good Samaritan goes to extreme measures to return a stolen car. Head to Ali's blog at to vote.


ROMANS: Now back to our "You Choose" segment, where we ask you to vote on the news. And here's the winner.

TSA agents gave what one man calls, quote, "intrusive pat-downs to passengers, including kids, who were getting off an Amtrak train in Savannah, Georgia last month. Check this out.

Florida fire lieutenant Brian Gamble posted this video on YouTube. You can see the agents patting the kids down. Gamble says he was among about 40 people getting off the train who were ordered by TSA agents to be searched. Turns out there was a random search operation going on, and the arriving passengers were accidentally roped into it. The TSA has apologized for any inconvenience.

We'll post the stories about the teacher getting fired because of her bumper sticker and also the story about the good Samaritan going to great lengths to return a stolen car. You can read those on Ali's blog. That's

That's it for me today. Don Lemon is sitting in for Ali Velshi tomorrow. But right now, CNN NEWSROOM continues with Brooke Baldwin. Hi, Brooke.