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Americans Begin Holiday Shopping Early; Four L.A. County Sheriff's Dept Employees Die Of Apparent Suicides In 24 Hours; Palestinian Islamic Jihad Says It's Ready To Release Two Hostages; Surgeons Announce First Whole-Eye Transplant In A Human. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 09, 2023 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, we haven't even cut the Thanksgiving Turkey yet, but many Americans are already getting started on their holiday shopping. New numbers showing spending is up early this year, and the discounts are only just getting started. CNN's Matt Egan is joining us now to break all of this down. All right, how big of a jump are you seeing? I'm certainly not part of it, I will tell you that. And how early are we talking here?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Brianna, early like before Halloween, early. Because that's when these deals are showing up. And, you know, apparently, it's not just my wife that's doing the shopping. Adobe analyst says that Americans spend $77 billion online shopping in October alone. That's up 6 percent year-over-year. Now, this is really the first look at early holiday shopping trends and they look pretty solid. Especially when you consider that online prices are actually lower today than they were a year ago.

So that means this is real growth. It's not being just driven by inflation. It is being driven though by discounts. Where are we seeing the biggest discounts? Appliances up to 6 percent off list price, sporting goods, apparel, electronics up to 12 percent. And this is really just getting started. Adobe Analytics is predicting record setting online shopping discounts of up to 35 percent during peak holiday shopping.

One thing we need to keep an eye on though here, Brianna, is how people are paying for this. Because we have seen some early signs of financial stress. And so, if people are just piling on more credit card debt that could be dangerous, especially now.


KEILAR: All right, when you see the Lego sale pop up, you let me know, Matt. I really need that one. I know we're also getting some pretty significant new numbers from the housing market. What are you learning there?

EGAN: Yes, Brianna, it's some good news bad news for prospective homebuyers. The good news is that mortgage rates are down. Going from about 7.8 percent to 7.5 percent. That is the biggest week-over-week drop that we've seen in a year. The bad news is, as you can see on that chart, mortgage rates are still high. They've more than doubled from where they were at this point in 2020. And that is very painful because the higher mortgage rates go, the less home that people can afford. Let me show you what I mean here.

If you were buying a $500,000 home and putting 20 percent down, you're paying. $1,100 more per month than you were if you bought at this point in 2020 -- $1100 more. And that's not getting you an extra bedroom or a bigger garage. That's all money that's just going to the bank. So if you talk to people who are trying to buy a home right now, they're hoping mortgage rates go much lower because, Brianna, it is very tough out there right now.

KEILAR: Wow. I mean, that is something that really puts it into perspective. Matt, thank you so much for taking us through that. We appreciate it.

Coming up, sources tell CNN that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has been hospitalized in Mexico City. We'll have details ahead.



KEILAR: All right, this is just shocking news out of Los Angeles County. Four current and former LA County Sheriff's Department employees have died in the span of 24 hours. All are believed to have died by suicide. CNN's Josh Campbell is with us now on this story. Josh, three of these workers were current employees. One while yes 1981 I think I try to sell me something here ad retired. You know, do we have any idea what's going on here?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So Brianna, at this hour, no clear through line. We do know that the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau is investigating the suicides. Again, as you mentioned, three current employees, one retired employee. LA Sheriff Robert Luna says that the department is now in mourning. I'll read you part of his statement.

He says that: We are stunned to learn of these deaths, and it has sent shock waves of emotion throughout the department, as we try and cope with the loss of not just one, but four beloved active and retired members of our department family. During trying times like these, it's important for personnel, regardless of rank or position, to check on the well-being of other colleagues and their friends.

Now Brianna, this has certainly been a crisis that we've heard about across law enforcement, across this country. And you know, this is personal. I've had former colleagues in law enforcement who have died by suicide. You know, the key that we hear from experts is that officers have to understand that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. We're also hearing calls for solutions. Such as mandatory annual checkups for officers.

You know, there's this culture in law enforcement that you just have to suck it up and keep going. It's obviously an inherently dangerous profession that officers are in. They're running calls, interacting with people who are calling 911 on the worst day of their life. And that takes its toll. And so having those annual checkups, we're hearing from experts, will allow authorities to try to get past that stigma of weakness, you know, requiring officers to do this.

But finally, it's interesting, I talked to, for example, Chief Charles Ramsey, who's formerly the head of Philly and Washington DC departments and said that he tried this in Philadelphia, sending officers through this mandatory training. He was shocked by how many of those officers came back and said, I want a second appointment. I want a third appointment. Again, it starts with messaging and it starts with ending the stigma of seeking help -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, and it's so hard, I think for people. We've seen this with veterans too. Getting to that first point of seeking help. And that's really the hardest step for so many, as you point out. Josh, thank you so much. It's just horrific to hear this.

And I do just want to mention that if you or anyone you know needs help or is in crisis, you can call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is free and it is confidential -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We're following some breaking news out of Gaza. The military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group says that it is prepared to release two hostages. CNN's Nic Robertson is live for us in Sderot, Israel. Nic, I understand one is a 77-year-old woman, the other a 13-year-old boy. What else are you learning?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we do know that a video has been released by this group and in deference to the families wishes, we're not showing the video, not airing clips of it. And at the moment as well not naming these two people, by some deference to the family.

Interestingly, the IDF was questioned about this ongoing behind the scenes development a few hours ago. The IDF spokesman said there, we have not missed an opportunity and will not miss an opportunity to get hostages. I don't know if this hints that they're aware of what's happening behind the scenes.

But this is the first time Palestinian Islamic Jihad have offered to release hostages. They're saying they're doing it on humanitarian grounds. Their leader, the military wing, the Al-Quds Brigade military wing Abu Hamza said, one is being released for humanitarian reasons. One is being released for medical reasons.

Only four hostages have been released so far. An American mother and daughter -- that was several weeks ago by Hamas. A few days later, two elderly Israeli women were released again by Hamas.


How many other hostages does Palestinian Islamic Jihad have? Really isn't clear. Is this indicative that there's a bigger breakthrough coming? That's not clear either. But this is a development for at least two families. SANCHEZ: Yes, and that spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad, saying that

neither the timing nor the circumstances are clear at this point of those hostages' potential released. Nearly 240 hostages in total being held by Hamas at this point. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for the update. Something to keep an eye on. Stay with CNN. We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: It's being heralded as a medical breakthrough. Surgeons in New York have performed the first ever whole eye transplant in a living person. CNN's Omar Jimenez has been following all this for us. Omar walked us through what the surgery entails and the story behind it.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, look, the surgery itself was incredibly complicated, an over 20-hour surgery that, of course, took efforts in two different operating rooms while this was actually happening. And when I talked to the person who actually was the recipient of this whole eye transplant, one, he can't believe he's in the position that he's in. Now, over two years after he got a 7,200- volt shock from an electrical line, his doctors can't either. Take a look.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Aaron James was working as a high voltage lineman in 2021 when his face accidentally touched a live wire. He lost an arm and parts of his face. James's new reality left him nearly unrecognizable, with no memory of what happened. He was sent to a hospital in Texas not long after.

AARON JAMES, TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: Basically I got up, went to work and woke up six weeks later in Dallas, Texas.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Doctors at New York University soon got wind of his case and saw a possibility. Less than two years after the accident, they performed a successful partial face and a whole eye transplant. The first time that's ever been done in history. And this is what James looks like now. The new eye is still not open, but receiving blood flow, his doctors say. When you walk by the mirror, do you ever stop yourself and go, oh yes. Wow.

AARON JAMES: Every time I see a mirror. I've thought, it's unbelievable.

MEAGAN JAMES, WIFE OF AARON JAMES: In the very beginning it was a poor outlook. They were basically preparing me for his death.

JIMENEZ: Did you ever lose hope?


JIMENEZ: Why is that? MEAGAN JAMES: Because he was fighting.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Their daughter Allie wasn't sure what he would look like. But that's not what she cared about.

ALLIE JAMES, DAUGHTER OF AARON JAMES: Most of my worries was just how he was going to be when he was awake and aware.

JIMENEZ: Did you ever think you were going to lose him?


AARON JAMES: I think I'm still a little in shock. Long before how in the world. How did this happen to us, you know?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The 21-hour procedure was intricate at every level.

JIMENEZ: Why is adding an eye to a face transplant much more complicated than the already complicated face transplant?


JIMENEZ (voice-over): Doctor Eduardo Rodriguez helped lead the historic surgery. In one of two operating rooms, he dissected the face that James would soon receive, including an eye.

RODRIGUEZ: We disconnected from the donor and the race begins. At this point, the face and the eye are not receiving any blood supply. The amount of time that it's not receiving blood is critical. The eye could die. So I take the face from the donor room to through Aaron's room and I begin all those connections.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Having to use a microscope to connect nerves no more than a millimeter wide to connect the eye.

JIMENEZ: Is there a possibility that he will see in the future?

RODRIGUEZ: At this point, he does not see, but the fact that the eye is there. We've already made one huge step forward.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): This was James seeing himself for the first-time post surgery.

JIMENEZ: You don't look at this as a finish line. This is more of a starting point.

AARON JAMES: Absolutely.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Through it all, James sees a purpose greater than his own.

AARON JAMES: That's really my biggest hope out of this deal. I mean, if I can see out of it that's great. With a good old kick start the next pass in the medical field and I'm all for it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

JIMENEZ (on camera): And look, he still has a long journey, a lot more work to be done. Doctors are going to continue to do tests to see if he can actually see at some point. But also, he still has to get teeth. He's far from out of the woods.

Yet that said, one of the things he really told me he thinks about a lot. Is that on the other side of his celebration of the progress that he's made. He thinks about the families of people that lost someone who then decided to give up a piece of their loved one for him. And he says he doesn't take that for granted and doesn't let a day go by without thinking about it. It's just an incredible story, and especially over the course of that interview, he even found space to laugh through it all.


And so just the spirits and the perseverance throughout it all really about as incredible as the surgery itself.

SANCHEZ: What an inspiring story, and really remarkable just from the scientific medical aspect. Omar Jimenez, thanks so much for bringing that to us.

Stay with NEWS CENTRAL. We're back in just a moment.


KEILAR: All right, we have some exciting news to share. We love these. Our colleague Sara Murray has welcomed a healthy son.


Sara says that Archer Andrew Paul Artem Stein (ph) came wailing into the world at 8 pounds four ounces. Wow. And he may not have a future in journalism as he missed his deadline. Come on, you can be little late, also known as his due date by a few days.

SANCHEZ: Yes, his two middle names come from his paternal and maternal grandfathers. His first name, Archer, stands for genuineness and boldness. It's also apparently the name of a Taylor Swift song. Baby Archer attended not one, not two, but three Taylor Swift shows before he was born. Sara is a huge fan.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.