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New Push to Free Captive U.S. Soldier; Injury Ends Bode Miller's Olympics; Online Dating; Sen. Paul to Speak about Felons' Rights

Aired February 19, 2014 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Checking our "Top Stories" this morning. The claims of the so-called Craigslist killer slowly unraveling -- Alaska officials now say there is no evidence to back up Miranda Barbour's story that she killed anyone in that state. Authorities say they followed up tips but found no evidence of a crime. Barbour previously told reporters she committed countless murders in several states. She and her husband are currently in a Pennsylvania jail after admitting to killing a man they met on Craigslist.

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reveals a mixed outlook for raising the minimum wage. If the minimum wage is increased to $10.10 900,000 Americans could be lifted out of poverty but the report added that 500,000 jobs could -- could be cut from the economy. President Obama supports the wage hike.

The clock is ticking for the only U.S. soldier held in captivity as America's longest war draws to an end. CNN has learned the U.S. is making a new effort to secure the release of Bowe Bergdahl. He's been held by insurgents in Pakistan since 2009 and now officials fear his health could be getting worse.

Officials tells CNN the negotiations are extremely sensitive but Bergdahl's family remains hopeful. They released a statement saying, quote, "We are cautiously optimistic these discussions will lead to the safe return of our son after more than four and a half years in captivity."

Bowe's father Bob Bergdahl has become an expert in Afghan and Pakistani culture. He wears a long beard that he's been growing since his son disappeared. He spoke out last summer saying his son will never be forgotten.


BOB BERGDAHL, BOWE BERGDAHL'S FATHER: A father does not leave his son alone on the battlefield. I do not live here. I live in Afghanistan. My cell phone is set on Afghan time. My weather is Afghan weather. I might be standing here but I am living vicariously through my son. I will not leave you on the battlefield, Bowe. These people here will not leave you on the battlefield. Your country will not leave you on the battlefield. You are not forgotten.


COSTELLO: Joining me now to talk about it, Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. diplomat and professor of International Relations at Harvard University. Welcome sir.


COSTELLO: You know I just I can't imagine that family's pain four and a half years. And it does seem that we've left an American soldier out there somewhere when it is our duty to rescue him.

BURNS: Well first, I think you're right, Carol. This is the worst possible situation for the Bergdahl family. And your hearts have to go out to them and I think all Americans have tremendous sympathy with them. It's also the most difficult possible situation for the U.S. government. Because of course, the United States government, the military want to get their soldier back, Sergeant Bergdahl after four -- more than four years of captivity.

But you know, the Taliban is the one that started this. They are responsible. They are the ones who have held him in the most cynical and brutal way in captivity. So one would hope that the international pressure would be really focused on the Taliban because they are the ones who committed this crime.

COSTELLO: I know the United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists -- at least that's what it says but it does, doesn't it?

BURNS: Well, you know, there are tradeoffs here. The policy of the U.S. government for many decades going well back to the Reagan administration and before is that the United States government will not negotiate with terrorists.

But on the other hand, if there is an opportunity to try to get your soldier back, you have to make every effort to do so. And so the really difficult choice for any administration in a situation like this is, you know, where does the balance lie? If there is a realistic possibility of getting a soldier back, you have to pursue that. But of course you don't want to do anything that would -- that would weaken the overall effort or reward the terrorists who took him hostage.

And so you know it's hard to comment. It's hard to give any advice to the U.S. government, because they are the only ones that know what the real information here is. Is this offer, is the Taliban serious about -- about letting him go? What would be the consequences if that happened? And you just have to trust in the good judgment of our government and I'm sure our government is doing everything they can to do the right thing here.

COSTELLO: Well according to "The Washington Post," some sort of deal has come to fruition to release these five prisoners from Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl although the U.S. government is sort of denying that.

So in your estimation is -- is that a good deal? Is it something the United States should consider?

BURNS: Well, again, I think -- I think that you have to know the details here to give a -- to give an honest answer. We have been releasing, as you know, prisoners from Guantanamo in small groups for many years now.

So that might be one thing that the government could consider. But on the other hand, you don't want to do anything that could strengthen the Taliban or the Haqqani Network and some of the other terrorists groups that may or may not be involved here.

And it's really a judgment call. And it's very difficult for outsiders to make if you don't have all the information available to you. You just got to trust in the goodness of your own government. We have a good government. The problem here is the Taliban. And there is an insufficient international pressure on them because they have taken our soldier hostage. They are the ones who should be under pressure. Not so much the United States government.

COSTELLO: Ambassador, Nicholas Burns, thank you so much for being with me this morning. I appreciate it.

BURNS: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: For Syrians attempting to escape the violence of their war- torn homeland neighboring countries have become refuge from the clashes. The U.N. estimates that since the civil war began almost two years ago, more than two million people have crossed over the Syrian borders. One of the countries most affected is Jordan where the U.N. says refugees now make up approximately 10 percent of that country's population.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Mohammed you visited one of those camps what did you see?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we were in Zaatari yesterday that houses over 100,000 Syrian refugees. Half of the number of those refugees are children. And one of the biggest problems that they have faced all along is a lock of proper education. It's hard enough on these kids who have to flee the violence and the war in Syria. Many of them, when they get to the neighboring countries like Jordan, they can't get into schools. They don't have access to education.

Yesterday, things were a bit brighter for them. Malala Yousafzai the young Nobel Peace Prize nominee who is such a proponent of education, she visited Zaatari yesterday. She went to classrooms in which these Syrian refugee girls and boys are studying and talked to them about the importance of education.

Now, there are only three schools on the Zaatari refugee camp. Let's try to break down the numbers. There is about 50,000 children, there is 20,000 children of those children that are enrolled in school there. And those schools that are on the camp well they only have room for about 16,000 of them.

So even though conditions for children's education are better at the Zaatari refugee camp and even though UNICEF and other aid workers are trying to highlight that and ask for more funds, they still need a lot more help.

Malala really inspired these kids yesterday. They spoke to her one- on-one. These saw how she was a survivor. These kids told me over and over again, they are so happy to be in school. You know you talk to teenagers the world over, they are not that happy to be in classrooms. These kids, very happy. They feel alive in these classrooms. And it shows how eager they are not just to survive but also to learn -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That's just amazing.

You know as far as Malala is concerned, she looks all better. Is she?

JAMJOOM: Well, she certainly seemed better. She was very lively yesterday. She was very eager to talk to the kids about what she had been through and she spoke a lot about the fact that most of these kids didn't recognize her. So she was able to interact with them on a one-on-one basis and really introduce herself to them and to share her story, which is so inspirational and talk about how she survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and still, here she is a force for education.

She told these kids that in order to rebuild Syria they are going to need to do it with books and pens, not with guns and rockets. And that's a message that really resonated with these children. Malala went over the whole day around the whole camp. The day before that, she was actually helping Syrian refugees cross the border into Jordan, carrying some of them across the border as well.

So she's really been an inspiration. And really seeing her there was such a bright spot for these kids and even for adult refugees at the Zaatari refugee camp -- Carol.

COSTELLO: A bright spot for us too. Mohammed Jamjoom, thanks so much.

We're back in a minute.


COSTELLO: Despite surprises this morning out of Sochi, the United States is reaching for the top spot on the medal podium. The United States has 21 total medals, seven of them are gold. Russia leads the total medal count right now. Vic Wild of Washington State earned himself a gold medal in the snowboard slalom. There's just one problem though, he won the medal for Russia. The American became a Russian citizen after funding for his sport was cut off by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

But, American skier, Ted Ligety did win gold for his country in the Giant Slalom. Bode Miller failed to medal. Unfortunately, Bode Miller's Olympics are over. He will skip his final even because of a knee injury he suffered today. But Miller will go home as an Olympic medalist and he has no hard feelings at all toward the NBC reporter who brought him to tears after taking home the bronze.

Rachel Nichols sat down with Bode Miller. She is in Sochi, Russia. What did he say, Rachel?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Well, Carol, he thought it was important to set the record straight about that NBC interview. We also talked about just getting older. We are all dealing with this but it is particularly deadly for alpine skiers.

Before this Olympics, no one passed the age of 34 had medaled at an Olympics in an alpine event but Bode shattered that at the age of 36. He was very candid about that and all other subjects. Take a listen


NICHOLS: Ski racing in general, not necessarily something that's you get better at as your older. You are 36 and you managed medaling.

BODE MILLER, OLYMPIC ATHLETE: Yes. It was one of those records or stats that's kind of funny. It's like underhanded. You are really old. Good job. But I feel like I'm competitive with the best guys in the world. I came in here really confident. I just hope I can stay that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see you there and it just looks like you are talking to somebody.

NICHOLS: You had a pretty emotional interview with Kristen Cooper -- got a lot of controversy back in the States afterwards.

MILLER: I was really surprised. I mean I felt like it was me, not her, you know. She asked questions and I feel like with her knowledge of my brother and the situation I felt like were pretty normal questions. I have known Kristen for a long time. I think she is really comfortable with me. I felt terrible that she was getting just massacred in the press and social media.

But you know, I think in the end, people will sort of see that it was more me just dealing with all these emotions and the build-up of several years of very tough personalized stuff.

NICHOLS: There is a lot of people outside of skiing who don't know your brother's story. He had a motorcycle crash. How long ago was it? MILLER: It was '06. It was really super tough on all of us. We didn't know if he was going to even recover or be, you know, be alive or anything. It was really kind of a turning point. After he recovered, it turned out over the course of six years or seven years, he had five, six seizures.

NICHOLS: When he did have the seizures and died from that, did that make you rethink coming to these Olympics?

MILLER: It didn't change my feelings about the Olympics at all. It just was an emotional moment that kind of like, you know, emotions that just live inside of you no matter what. But if you lose a family member or a loved one, I don't think there is anything more sort of, you know, to honor their memory than to use that memory and the love for them to do something that maybe you couldn't do otherwise.

You know, it felt great but it also was painful.


NICHOLS: Now, Bode's brother was a snowboarder himself. Carol, he actually hoped to make these Olympic Games. The idea was that they would be here on the Olympic team together. So Bode said that while it is obviously very emotional and difficult for him to talk about his brother, he also told me that he likes talking about his brother as hard as it is because in that way, his brother is still here at these Olympics and part of these games with him.

COSTELLO: I can understand that. Rachel Nichols, many thanks.

In today's connected world much of our life is spent online. But not too long ago, online dating was considered a pretty sketchy activity. But these days, it is a billion dollar industry.

Tom Foreman follows one couple's digital love story in this week's American Journey.


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


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

BROOKE BRANDT, MET HUSBAND ONLINE: We do our banking online and our social networking is online. So why not try online match making?

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

BROOKE BRANDT: You called. And I think I saw you the next Friday and we've never been apart since. FOREMAN: Online dating once widely viewed as sketchy or a haven for the desperate has become 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 EXPERT: The biggest question that I get from singles is where do I meet people.

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

DEALTO: If you can go hang out with a bunch of vegetarians and you're passionate about being vegetarian, 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 hit, 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 BRANDT, MET WIFE ONLINE: Where we are now is starting our fourth year of an Internet dating marriage. We have an Internet dating baby. We live in an Internet dating house.

FOREMAN: For Kyle and Brooke, it's a trend with a storybook end. Tom Foreman, CNN.



COSTELLO: Senator Rand Paul is hoping his home state of Kentucky will allow some felons to vote again. Today Senator Paul will speak in front of the Kentucky State Senate in support of an amendment to Kentucky's constitution to do just that.

CNN's political director, Mark Preston joins us live. Kind of seems like a strange effort by Senator Paul.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no doubt. You know, Carol, he is the unconventional legislator in many ways. You wouldn't think that you would hear a Republican talk about trying to restore voting rights for felons.

But you know, I just got off the phone with Senator Paul. He is about ready to testify on behalf of this in front of his state legislatures in Kentucky. But he said, in fact that in many ways this is very much what you would expect a Republican to talk about. He said the Republicans have been long proponents of civil rights and voting rights. He says that this is very much a mantra of what you would expect Republicans to talk about. He says it makes sense. He says that you have got to give people a second chance. He says that People should have the opportunity to participate in government and this is really for people who are nonviolent felons, people who might have drug offenses, a way to get them back into society.

He has an interesting ally in this, Carol -- an ally he had lunch with last week and that's Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States. They had lunch last week. They talked about this. They also agree on trying to get rid of mandatory minimums when it comes to drug offenses. And of course, this is Eric Holder, someone who he has been fighting with over the NSA and other issues as well. But they broke trend last week and they agree on these two issues.

Rand Paul trying to get this done, not only in the state of Kentucky but he also told me that he will be introducing legislation later this spring to try to restore federal voting rights for folks when it comes to federal voting across the board, across the United States, Carol.

COSTELLO: I think he really wants to be president.

PRESTON: Maybe but if he does, what an unconventional candidate he would be if he ran in 2016.

COSTELLO: He would, indeed. It would be very interesting, though. Thank you so much, Mark Preston.

PRESTON: Thanks.

COSTELLO: It might be time to rethink your budget. Two of the most important gallons are about to cost more, the price of both milk and gasoline are headed higher just in time for spring. Zain Asher is at the New York Stock Exchange to tell us why. Good morning Zain.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Carol. So basically dairy outlets are basically saying that milk prices could actually go up 60 cents in March reaching their highest level ever, you can hardly believe it. But the current average, $3.50 per gallon; that means you could actually end up paying $4.10 a gallon next month.

So a couple of reasons for that: first of all, the drought in California that the farmers have obviously been struggling with, they need water to obviously feed their cows, they also need water to grow alfalfa. It would cost farmers more to feed their cows; you might end up feeling the price increase in terms of milk.

Second of all, there is a growing international demand for cheese, especially in cases like China as well. China has had their own supply problems with dairy partly because of high-feed costs, weather problems, and some diseases as well. They have been importing more from the U.S. That could lead to higher prices too.

But in terms of gas prices Carol, this usually happens around this time of year every single year. The current average of gasoline is $3.37. After the 50 cent increase, it could actually go up to $3.87. Around this time of year is really when you have refineries switching over to summer blend gasoline, it's more expensive but it's also more eco-friendly. It burns cleaner. Sometimes these refineries actually have to close down temporarily in February to switch over and that can affect prices.

Lastly, crude oil is also a factor in this. Right now crude oil hovering roughly around $100 a barrel. And a lot of what you pay at the pump is determined by the cost of crude oil. It is also partly because of refining taxes and marketing. Crude oil is really the most important factor -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Zain Asher reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange. A couple of things to keep in mind as we head through the day: Violent protests are continuing in the Ukraine's capital. President Obama is expected to issue comments on the crisis some time today. It comes as his national security advisor is saying the United States has a full range of options to respond to the violence there. One possibility could become clearer at any time.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, expected to discuss possible U.S. sanctions against the embattled government in Ukraine.

Also, President Obama is heading to Mexico today to meet with his counterpart there and the Canadian prime minister. The one-day summit, which is sometimes called the Three Amigos is expected to focus on like the Keystone Pipeline, immigration reform and border security. This is the eighth year they have met in Mexico.

That will do it for me. Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"@THIS HOUR" with Berman and Michaela starts now.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN HOST: Outrage after U.S. troops post disrespectful funeral photos on Instagram. What were they thinking?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A new plan to store pictures of every license plate on the road where your car is right now, where it's been.