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Lawsuit Challenges Legacy Admissions At Harvard; Is Herbal Supplement Berberine "Nature's Ozempic?"; Wrong Turn Costs Elite Runner Win, Prize Money; FL Gov. DeSantis Gains Fan Base Among Suburban Women. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 04, 2023 - 13:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: What its critics call a different form of affirmative action is now being challenged at Harvard University. Three minority advocacy groups are suing the school over its legacy admissions, which gives preference to the children of alumni.

This comes just days after the Supreme Court decision ended race- conscious affirmative action in higher education.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us now with the details.

And, Athena, this has been percolating for some time. Outside of the debate over affirmative action for racial preferences, the question of whether it's fair to give preference to the children of alumni.

So where does this -- what argument does the lawsuit make and where does it stand?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. That's exactly right. This is a discussion about merit. What qualifies as merit? If you can qualify on merit, can you give special preference to people who have a parent or relative who went to Harvard or who are big donors to Harvard?

These groups, three Black and Latino groups are joining together to say, no, that is not far. They say that these legacy and donor-related admissions get preferential treatment. The vast majority of them, nearly 70 percent, are white.

So what this amounts to is a policy that ends up giving an advantage to rich, white students and disadvantages other students who don't have those connections or are minorities.

The complaint notes that the district court called these preferences given to legacy applicants sizable and significant. And the complaint really goes to great lengths to spell all of this out by providing a lot of data using admissions numbers.

So let's look at some of that. They found that for the class of 2026, just under 2,000 applicants gained admission out of an applicant pool of more than 61,000. But look at that admission rate. 3.24 percent is minuscule.

But it's very, very different if you are related to someone who has donated to Harvard or if you have a parent or relative who went.

For donors, those applicants were seven times more likely to be admitted, with an admissions rate of 42 percent.

If you have a parent or relative who went to Harvard, you were six times more likely than an ordinary student to be admitted for an acceptance rate of 33 percent.

So this complaint argues that this is just not fair. They want the U.S. Department of Education to call on Harvard to stop doing this, to call this practice discriminatory.

And of course, the timing of this matters so much, because it's less than a week since the Supreme Court severely limited the use of race in college admissions.

And so these groups are arguing that if the court is going to do that about race, it is now even more imperative to eliminate any policies that disadvantage minority students while advantaging white students -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: One interesting thing about these cases, if you go back to the Harvard case, the data that the lawsuit found was a whole host of benefits that came in the process, including for athletes, right? Folks who play sports, they got a big boost over the general population.

But there were specific ways that this complaint lays out about how legacy applicants benefited during the admissions process. Can you lay out a couple of them?

JONES: Sure. This is so interesting. You're right, athletes, people who have athletic skills get a special leg up.

But when it comes to legacy and donor applicants, they get all kinds of what the university calls tip factors that get weighed into their application.

For instance, if you are related to a donor, you could end up on the Dean's interest list, which includes ratings for how important the donor is to Harvard.

If you are one of these donor-related or legacy applicants, you have your application closely monitored throughout the entire process. They say it's annotated, so notes or symbols are added to make sure admissions officers pay it special attention.

And these folks also get flagged again when they're trying to narrow down the final pool of applicants. These legacies get flagged again.

A lot of advantages that these groups are not fair and should be eliminated -- Jim? SCIUTTO: It would be interesting to know if the dollar amount of

donations can be co-related with an increased chance of admission. Part of a longer conversation.

Athena Jones, in New York, thanks so much.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Still to come, an act of heroism. A Georgia officer pulling a driver from a burning car. Some really dramatic body cam footage we're going to share with you.

And a new dietary supplement is causing quite a stir on social media. Some people calling it nature's Ozempic. What are the experts saying?


CNN's NEWS CENTRAL returns in just a moment.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Now to some of the other headlines that we are watching this hour.

A sheriff's deputy in Georgia racing to save a woman trapped inside of her burning SUV. That is body camera video capturing this dramatic rescue, battling these billowing flames and all of this smoke.

The deputy managed to smash the driver's side window and pull that woman out safely here. Her car caught fire after she had crashed into woods.


Also, NASA is showing off its first image of the planet Saturn from the highly sensitive James Webb Space Telescope. This new photo taken with a near-infrared camera shows a very dark Saturn with this bright fluorescent-like rings around it.

Saturn appearing very dark due to the near total absorption of sunlight by methane gas. Astronomers say the image has enabled them to discover surprising details about Saturn's atmosphere.

And Mark Zuckerberg is coming for Elon Musk. The Facebook creator's company, Meta, working on a new app called Threads and it's supposed to rival Twitter.

It appears to mimic Twitter's Live conversation format with the ability to build followers and to connect with other users. It is set to go live on Thursday.

Musk angered millions of users over the weekend after announcing a new policy that will limit how many tweets users can read while using the app.

Boris, a lot of people looking for an alternative. SANCHEZ: Make sure to Thread me, Brianna, as soon as you get a chance.

So it's being called nature's Ozempic. We'll talking about the dietary supplement Berberine. It's creating a lot of buzz on social media with influencers claiming that it helped them lose weight. But the million- dollar question: Does it actually work?

Let's bring in CNN health reporter, Jacqueline Howard.

Jacqueline, how effect is this Berberine in reality?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's the question, Boris. Because we really don't have many clinical trials looking specifically at the effectiveness of Berberine for losing weight.

But I can tell you, there's one study that shows Berberine associated with a 0.25 percent reduction in body mass index among those who tried taking the supplement.

But when you think about those who have taken Ozempic and Wygove, those are associated with a 4.61 percent reduction in BMI units. So 0.25 versus 4.6, you see a big difference there.

And the bottom line is, Boris, we just simply don't have the rigorous scientific data to really pinpoint the effectiveness for Berberine.

SANCHEZ: And what about any potential risks?

HOWARD: Well, with that, we know for sure people who are breast- feeding, those who are pregnant should not take Berberine. There is the risk of it potentially interacting with certain medications. And it should not be given to infants.

And then there are some common side effects, as you see there, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea. Those are some side effects that some people might experience.

SANCHEZ: Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much for the reporting. We'll be on the lookout for any more serious research into Berberine.

Thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: Well, a big let-down moment during the Annual Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. Last year's champion, Senbere Teferi, was just seconds away from defending her title when she took a wrong turn, just meters before the finish line.


ANNOUNCER: And Teferi is trying to get herself to the finish line. Look at the moves back and forth - and Teferi is now --



ANNOUNCER: She took a right turn! It looks like she went off-course.


SCIUTTO: Goodness! You saw her there take that right turn, the other runners continuing on to the finish line.

It's hard to see -- looking at that line of fences, as she was approaching the finish line, there's that right turn -- there was a lead motorcycle and it was that that apparently turned right and ran off-course.

You can see that there. The lights flashing there. So she took that as a signal to go right, though the finish line was ahead. Goodness. Understandable mistake.

She ended up finishing just seconds behind the first-place winner. Teferi also lost out on a $10,000 prize. But she didn't walk away empty-handed. Third place earns a $3,000 award.

Well, in the next hour, we'll be speaking with one of the organizers of the race to talk about what happened here, why did that motorcycle turn right? Fair question. That's all coming up.



KEILAR: And CNN meets with a fan base of moms , several of whom were lifelong Democrats, about why they now stand with Ron DeSantis. What the Florida governor and 2024 candidate said that won them over. We have that ahead.



KEILAR: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' consistent second-place position in polling does not appear to be worrying his presidential campaign.

A spokesman for a pro-DeSantis PAC admitting the campaign is fighting an uphill battle, but still believes he can win.


STEVE CORTEZ, DESANTIS PAC SPOKESPERSON: Clearly, Donald Trump is the runaway frontrunner, particularly since the indictments. It was not the case before the indictments. It is the case afterwards. And it is understandable that a lot of folks want to rally to him.


KEILAR: The latest CNN polling showing that only 26 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters prefer DeSantis as the GOP nominee. He is in second. That is second to Donald Trump's 47 percent.

But one group that has been solidly behind DeSantis, suburban moms. Some of them actually life-long Democrats, who supported his COVID-19 policies during the pandemic.

CNN's Elle Reeve asked these moms how they feel about him now.



VANESSA STEINKAMP, TEACHER: If DeSantis were to run tomorrow, he would win, and that would be such a hard pill to swallow I think for many people.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in 2021, Vanessa Steinkamp was the first person who told me she was a fan of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and that there were more like her.

(on camera): When we first spoke to you in 2021, you mentioned that you had this group of mom friends that you met on Twitter who are just obsessed with DeSantis, and it just stuck in my mind for years.

STEINKAMP: He would just do stuff and say stuff with this conviction. We were all like thank you.

REEVE: Did you guys have a nickname for him?

STEINKAMP: Daddy DeSantis. I mean, it's all joking --

REEVE: Of course.

STEINKAMP: -- because we're like desperate women who had tried everything that we could do in our own power in our own communities and we weren't getting anywhere.

JENNIFER SEY, AUTHOR AND FORMER BRAND PRESIDENT OF LEVI'S: He was very vocal starting in the summer of 2020 about the need to open schools, in particular.

REEVE (voice-over): During the COVID lockdowns in 2020, these frustrated moms built an informal Twitter network of people angry about closed schools and the difficulty of remote learning.

They were from all over the country but saw DeSantis as a model of what they wanted in their cities.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R-FL): School is a safe haven.

STEINKAMP: I mean, when I started advocating for kids to go back in person I was called a granny killer, a teacher killer, selfish on Twitter.

REEVE (on camera): On Twitter.

STEINKAMP: Oh my God, they were -- it was awful. REEVE (voice-over): Steinkamp is a teacher in Dallas and warned early on that lockdowns would hurt kids, especially poor kids.

STEINKAMP: We can't forget our most vulnerable and we've just created the single-largest inequality generator in a generation by having some schools open and some schools closed.

REEVE: On Twitter, Steinkamp connected with Jen Sey, then a Levi's executive who moved her family from San Francisco to Denver in early 2021 so she could send her kids to school in person.

SEY: We quickly sort of found a community online. And I found it really interesting that she was a teacher that was advocating for in- person school.

In San Francisco, you could go to a bar or a strip club but my high school students couldn't go to English class.

REEVE: Sey says she was forced out of Levi's in 2022 because of her COVID tweets, which the company told NPR undermined its own health and safety policies and sowed confusion among employees.

SEY: Ninety percent of what I wrote about was playgrounds and schools, and there's nothing embarrassing about that now.

REEVE: There were several active group chats where the moms shared news about COVID and DeSantis. One grew to more than 80 people and they traveled to each other's homes.

Many had been lifelong Democrats, including Julie Hamill, who has three kids and lives near L.A.

(on camera): You voted for Obama?

JULIE HAMILL, LAWYER: Yes, we vote twice.

REEVE: Clinton?


REEVE: Did you vote for Biden?

HAMILL: Yes. I have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. I have always considered myself very socially liberal. But as we became more vocal on Twitter we were really demonized.

REEVE (voice-over): In 2022, she ran for school board in Palos Verdes and won.

HAMILL: And I'm going to fight back.

REEVE: And was an active defender of her Twitter friends.

They aren't crazy. Data from the Education Department shows kids have been hurt by long-term remote learning, Black and brown students more than white. In August 2020, DeSantis was early to open schools compared to other U.S. states, but not the world.

Many European countries went back under national policies. In May 2020, for example, a Finland health official cited data that kids didn't play a significant role in spreading the virus.

But in the last two years, DeSantis has launched his presidential campaign and focused more on the culture war.

DESANTIS: We will make sure as president we leave Woke ideology in the dustbin of history where it belongs.


REEVE: The Twitter backlash they experienced made these women more receptive to parts of DeSantis' fight against wokeness, but not all of it.

(on camera): I'm wondering if you think that DeSantis' very public more on Woke distracts from the message that you like about him.

SEY: A little bit -- I do -- yes.

REEVE: Because -- I mean, like, to be honest, I do feel like it would be really good to have a big public debate about what did we get wrong in COVID. Like --

SEY: The left doesn't want to have that debate. They're never going to allow that debate.

I think there's a lot of kind of incendiary tactics being used to smear him. I think --

REEVE: He did sign a law that restricts transgender care for adults as well as kids.

SEY: I have greater concerns about the six-week abortion ban.

REEVE: Tell me about that.

SEY: You know, I think if he made it clear that he's a state's-right person and not -- and he's not looking to kind of pass a national law in this regard I would be less concerned.

REEVE (voice-over): Not everyone in their Twitter orbit agrees on his tactics but these three do think Florida's new six-week abortion ban is bad.

HAMILL: I think that's dangerous. That's something that I cannot get behind. And I don't think that's going to bode well for his presidential campaign. I think that might be a real impediment to bringing in moderate women.


REEVE: None of these women like the idea of a 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump. They're open to voting for DeSantis but are not sold.

(on camera): So there's been criticism from Republicans that DeSantis is, like, too online. That his campaign is too influenced by stuff that's popping online but, like, isn't affecting people in their lives. So one struggling to pay their bills isn't thinking about pronouns.

Is it possible that's true?

STEINKAMP: Oh, I don't think so. I've been down all over Florida and you know what they all say? He helped my business open up. He helped my kids go to school. The media just fixates on the culture war pieces.

REEVE Is it possible that you are too online?

STEINKAMP: Yes -- for sure in the beginning but not anymore. Do I need to fight with some random online? No.

HAMILL: I would love to be off Twitter but I feel like there are discussions that need to be had. For all the bad that comes with it, there is also a good.

And I've connected with all of these like-minded women who are not outright demons. They're moms who have been unseen and unheard.

REEVE (voice-over): Elle Reeve, CNN, Dallas.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Elle for that story.

We're now getting word of another mass shooting in the United States, this one in Indianapolis, as people begin to gather for the Fourth of July holiday. New details when CNN NEWS CENTRAL comes back.