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Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell Together at Events; Pandora Turning Music Choices into Profit; New Report Accuses North Koreans of Crimes Against Humanity; Top-Ranked First Ladies; Evolution of Online Dating.

Aired February 17, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: About to give an update on the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. If you don't want to know, spoiler alert, spoiler alert. Don't listen right now just for a few seconds. Pause for one second right now. We're pausing.

All right. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, they have won, yes, they have won the gold medal in ice dance. There they are. Congratulations to both of them. Another gold medal for the United States.

All right. That's it.

Let's move on to some more news, political news we're watching right now. Far from being friends, the political relationship between Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, awkward, but today, the two are out there together. They're taking part in a series of events, mostly in rural eastern Kentucky.

For more on the political dynamic between these two Senators from Kentucky, let's bring in our national political reporter, Peter Hamby. Peter has been watching all of this for a while.

How would you characterize the relationship between the senior and the junior Senator from Kentucky?

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Who hail from completely different wings of the Republican Party. I'd characterize it as cordial, professional. You talk to people around them, they don't actively dislike each other. But this can be described as a nonaggression pact. Mitch McConnell saw what happened in 2010 in Kentucky, in that Republican primary, where Rand Paul came out of nowhere, an ophthalmologist from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and beat the choice for U.S. Senate. Rand Paul representing the Libertarian wing of the party. He, you know, has courted Rand Paul, and got his support. And then for Rand Paul, you know, I'll eat my tie if he doesn't run for president in 2016. He needs to make himself a little bit more palatable to the Republican establishment, expand his donor base, and try to grow what is really sort of a limited set of voters inside a Republican primary.

BLITZER: You know, he does have a Tea Party opponent, Mitch McConnell, for the Republican Senatorial nomination, but Rand Paul has endorsed Mitch McConnell. Even though he might, on several sensitive issues, be more inclined to go along with the Tea Party candidate as opposed to the more established Republican candidate.

HAMBY: Right. And Rand Paul has kind of rankled a few supporters by doing this, being so blatantly for Mitch McConnell. He's not super enthusiastic about this. He was asked about it on Glenn Beck's radio show recently, why did you endorse Mitch McConnell, and Rand Paul said, well, he asked me. And remember, Mitch McConnell hired Paul's former campaign manager to run his campaign, and he was caught on tape last year saying he was, quote, "holding his nose and working for Mitch McConnell." So they're not wildly enthusiastic for each other. But again, by having each person on their team, they're sort of keeping, you know, opposite forces at bay.

BLITZER: Last week, McConnell took a bold position in allowing a vote to go forward to raise the nation's debt ceiling without strings attached, no concessions, no demands that earlier had been made. He's getting a lot of grief for that. Rand Paul didn't vote for that legislation. He was much more Tea Party oriented, more conservative on that. So this is an issue that Mitch McConnell will have to deal with in a Republican primary.

HAMBY: Absolutely. That's sort of why he is at Rand Paul's side throughout Kentucky over the next two days. McConnell is running against Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman who is trying to cease the Tea Party mantle in that state. I think the vote probably won't be as much of a big issue as people say it is. If you're voting in a Republican primary on the basis of a procedural debt ceiling vote, you're probably for Matt Bevin anyway. You may not be for Mitch McConnell. But McConnell, again, he doesn't have the strongest standing. He's still winning the primary about 20, 25 points so he's in the driver's seat here, but has to protect his flank. The bigger challenge might be the general election against Democrat Allison Grimes, who will have a lot of money behind her -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Coming up, assuming he gets the Republican nomination.

HAMBY: That's right.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. That's why we like covering politics.

HAMBY: That's right.

BLITZER: Peter, thanks very much.

So are Democrats big fans of Bruce Springsteen? Would Republicans rather listen to country music? Online music provider Pandora says it has figured out how your music choices reveal your politics and wants to turn that knowledge into profit.

"CNN Money" tech correspondent, Laurie Segall, joining us from New York right now.

Laurie, let's talk a little bit about this. Some folks will watch various shows, listen to various music, that may not necessarily reflect their political positions, but they like the shows. So is this an accurate reflection of a political agenda, shall we say?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Look, I share your sentiment. Just because, you know, someone potentially listens to country music doesn't mean they're necessarily Republican. But the key here and what Pandora is doing, when you sign up for this app, you sign up with your zip code. And Wolf, your zip code has a lot of valuable geographic data that Pandora is taking advantage of. So in the past, what they have done is looked at your zip code and said, hey, a lot of folks in this area, this is where the election goes, whether it goes to the left or the right. Now they're adding in your listening preference. So they're able to say, if you live in a certain -- this is an example they gave me. If you live in a certain suburb of Chicago, that generally votes to the left, and they can look and see that a lot of folks might listen to reggae music, and take that and correlate it and target. Wolf, I spoke to a partner. They partnered with an advertising firm called Bully Pulpit and I spoke to a partner from there and said what's interesting about this technology? Listen to what he said -- Wolf?


MARK SKIDMORE, PARTNER & CHIEF STRATEGIST, BULLY PULPIT INTERACTIVE: Most interesting thing about Pandora's new technology is the ability to not only reach the right voter at the right time, but get to know them, get to understand a little bit more about their lifestyle, get to know a little bit more about what their tastes are.


SEGALL: You know, the idea is that the more they know about you, whether it's where you live, whether it's what you listen to, the better they can target those political ads to you. They said that they have already drawn the correlations between country music -- between Republican zip codes and country music, and also Democratic zip codes and something like -- they say their listeners listen to jazz and reggae. It's this profile they can make money off -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Have we already seen targeted political ads on Pandora.

SEGALL: We have. We haven't seen when it comes to the listening, but we have seen it when it comes to them targeting us based on where we live. So a lot of New York Pandora listeners, when Bill de Blasio running for office, they started getting certain ads. And I believe we have some examples of them. And essentially, while you were listening to a song, they would say, hey, you know, if you live in a certain zip code, put in your e-mail address. They're trying to build out their e-mail context. Another example, Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, over one million Pandora users actually got an ad that said, you know, this is where you should go and vote, you know, for Terry. So that's really what they're trying to do, build this rich profile, who their listeners are, so they can make money -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Making money, obviously very important for all of these companies. Thanks very much for that, Laurie. Appreciate it.

A new report accuses the North Koreans of crimes against humanity. We have details of these extremely disturbing allegations.


BLITZER: A new United Nations report is leveling some extremely disturbing allegations against the regime in North Korea. It says there is, quote, "Abundant evidence that officials in North Korea have committed crimes against humanity, including starvation and the mistreatment of children."

Brian Todd is working this story for us. He's here.

What are some of the highlights or low lights, should we say, of this report?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really staggering, Wolf. An exhaustive report, interviewed 300-plus witnesses, 400 pages of this. It details systematic enslavement, rape, murder, torture, especially in North Korean prison camps. There are believed to be four of them with more than 100,000 people believed to be held.

One camp survivor, just one example, told of a pregnant woman who was nearly starved to death, gave birth to a baby. A security officer heard the baby's cries, beat the mother as punishment, and then forced her to drown the baby. That's just one account. And it goes on and on and on about these prison camps.

Another account from a survivor named Park Jihyun, who was in a labor camp, told a story about women being treated like livestock. Take a listen.


PARK JIHYUN, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR: Jobs included planing down the hills, we didn't have shoes, and the road had stones and bits of broken glasses. They didn't -- they thought we were going to escape. We were risk of escapes. And instead of using ox or cows as the carriage for us, four of us actually worked as a cow, dragging the cart.


TODD: One analyst we spoke to says this is a huge breakthrough, this U.N. report on North Korea, because it details what he says is, quote, "the worst human rights situation in the world." And, Wolf, when you think of what's going on in Syria, in the Central African Republic and Nigeria, places like that, that's staggering.

BLITZER: What have the North Koreans said in response?

TODD: We got hold of them at their offices at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, and they mailed us a statement basically saying this is entirely bogus, that this is fake, that it's part of a political plot to sabotage North Korea. And here's a quote. "The, quote, 'human rights violations' mentioned in the so-called report do not exist in our country." Now, we also have to say that the North Koreans did not cooperate with the U.N., denied them access when they were taking almost a year to compile this report. So there you have it.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Later in the show, online dating has gotten a bad rap, but slowly but surely, that stigma seems to be fading away. You'll hear one couple's story of finding love online.

But up next, ranking the first ladies of the United States. We'll tell you who the historians are picking as the most influential, and where the current first lady ranks.


BLITZER: On this President's' Day, we wanted to take a closer look at the other half of the team, the first ladies of the United States. And now there is a new survey out where experts chose the best first ladies in American history.

Joining us now is our own Erin McPike, who is taking a closer look.

Take us through the ranking, the top five right now. What do we see?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Any student of history should not be surprised by the top-ranked first lady. Eleanor Roosevelt has always topped this survey. What might surprise you is Abigail Adams, number two. Jackie Kennedy is number three and Dolly Madison is number four. And our current first lady, Michelle Obama, made her debut as number five. She knocked Hillary Clinton out of the top five. Hillary Clinton is number six.

What they are judged on, things like integrity and courage and leadership and their own accomplishments. We are talking about the first ladies here. Public image was a big one. The first ladies who are their own women. Then also value to the country and value to the president. Then there is who is the best steward in the White House? On that particular set, Jackie Kennedy wins.

BLITZER: Jackie Kennedy, a lot of people admired her as first lady of the United States. What about -- you say Hillary Clinton is knocked out of the top five. Barbara Bush, Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan, where do they stand?

MCPIKE: Barbara Bush was 11th and her daughter-in-law, Laura Bush, was 12th, and Nancy Reagan was 15th.

BLITZER: 15th.

MCPIKE: 15th.

BLITZER: And basically, these are historians that look back and try to make the determinations. As you say based on these various factors? A lot is so subjective. MCPIKE: Yeah, but they also had a separate set for ranking just the modern first ladies. On effectively managing family life in the White House, Michelle Obama won by a lot. She doubled up on Jackie Kennedy, who got 22 percent for doing that. Other categories, like who had the best legacy and best service, host. Eleanor Roosevelt won those, but Hillary Clinton was almost second in every category to Eleanor Roosevelt. That was interesting. One other is who can you most see as president, and guess who won that category?


MCPIKE: Hillary Clinton, 69 percent. Eleanor Roosevelt had 39 percent. Not a ranking of how much in each case, but 69 percent for Hillary and 39 for Eleanor.

BLITZER: I always wonder -- I don't know if this is going to happen. Michelle Obama, after the second term, like Hillary Clinton, decides, the girls are in college, maybe it's time for me. A Harvard Law grad. She's an impressive lady. Maybe she will run for office.

MCPIKE: She said she doesn't want to run for office, but she wants to do something.

BLITZER: She'll do something. We'll see what she does.

Good work, Erin McPike.

Coming up, a very different subject. Online dating has always had critics out there, but the tide seems to be turning right now. We're taking a closer look at the surge of respect and popularity of taking to the web to find true love.


BLITZER: On today's "American Journey," the evolution of online dating. Once given a bad rap, its popularity and expectation have taken a dramatic turn for the better.

Tom Foreman takes a closer look at one couple's success story.


KYLE BRANT, MET WIFE ONLINE: Would you like to come inside the house?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once upon a time, Brooke and Kyle Brant were living anything but storybook lives. They didn't know each other and each was struggling to find love when instead they fountain idea.

BROOKE BRANT, MET HUSBAND ONLINE: We do our banking online and our social networking online. Why not try online match making.

FOREMAN: She signed up with an Internet dating service. He did, too.

BROOKE BRANT: You called and I think I saw you the next Friday. And we never have been apart since. (SINGING)

FOREMAN: Online dating, once widely viewed as sketchy or a haven for the desperate, has been a billion-dollar business, filling the airwaves with ads. A study found one-third of marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online, in part, because the Internet solves a fundamental problem.

RACHEL DEALTO, RELATIONSHIP CONSULTANT: The biggest question is, where do I meet people.

FOREMAN: Rachel Dealto is a relationship consultant who says the massive growth that filter choices by religion, race, age, even beauty allows like-minded users to quickly connect.

DEALTO: If you can hang out with a bunch of vegetarians and you are passionate about it, why not join a vegetarian dating site.

FOREMAN (on camera): Another cause for the explosion, the economy. A popular theory holds that when the recession hits, many people started looking for less costly ways to explore relationships, giving online dating a big boost.

(voice-over): It does not work for everyone, of course, but --

KYLE BRANT: Where we are now is we are starting our fourth year of Internet-dating marriage. We have an Internet-dating baby and live in an Internet-dating house.

FOREMAN: For Kyle and Brooke, it's a trend with a story-book end.

Tom Foreman, CNN.


BLITZER: Nice story.

President Obama spoke about some pretty serious issues, like health care reform, gay rights, in his interview on our sister network, TNT, with the former NBA star, Charles Barkley. There were lighter moments. We know the president loves playing basketball so it should come as no surprise that the subject came out.


CHARLES BARKLEY, TNT HOST: How often do you get to play basketball now?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These days it's probably once a month. Things happen. One is you just get older and creepier. The second thing is you have to start thinking about elbows, and you break your nose right before a State of the Union address.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: Think about basketball. You think about what the NBA was before African-Americans were allowed to play on an equal footing. You think about the stories like Oscar Robertson tells of what they went through. You think about what Jackie Robinson ended up meaning not just to baseball but to the entire society. I wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for him.

I think America is stronger where everybody is being treated with respect and dignity.


BLITZER: This reminder, Charles Barkley will join me live in "The Situation Room" later today at 5:00 p.m. eastern. We will get the behind-the-scenes take. He was at the White House for this interview with President Obama. Charles Barkley and me in "The Situation Room" later today.

That's it for me right now. Thanks very much for watching.

NEWSROOM continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.

Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

Great to be with you on this Monday. I'm Brooke Baldwin.