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Zelenskyy: "No Alternative" To Sending Tanks To Ukraine; Speaker McCarthy Agrees To Biden Meeting On Debt Ceiling; Baldwin To Be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In "Rust" Shooting; Florida Explains Concerns About AP African American Studies Class; Google's Parent Company To Let Go Of 12,000 Employees; More Americans Raising Backyard Chickens As Egg Prices Surge; Tributes Pour In For Late Singer David Crosby. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 21, 2023 - 08:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Allison Chinchar, thanks so much for the forecast. Stay with us. The next hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to CNN This Morning. I'm Amara Walker.

SANCHEZ: Good morning, Amara. Mr. I'm Boris Sanchez. Frustration is mounting in Eastern Europe as Germany and the United States are locked in a stalemate over sending tanks to Ukraine. We're going to take you to the region for a live report on why this aid is so crucial.

WALKER: Also not sharing, for now the Justice Department rebuffing Republican efforts for information about its ongoing investigations. A move certain to frustrate newly empowered Republicans.

SANCHEZ: Plus, Alec Baldwin's lawyers say they were blindsided when the actor was set to be charged with manslaughter this week that has many wondering, do prosecutors actually have a case, are they overreaching? We're going to discuss.

WALKER: And the DeSantis administration blocks an AP African American studies course from being taught in high schools. We're joined by one professor for looking at what's actually in that course and why she feels it's critical for students.

SANCHEZ: Your weekend is finally here and we are glad to have you. It is Saturday January 21st. Good morning, Amara.

WALKER: Good morning, Boris. Good to see you. We are going to begin with the war in Ukraine this morning and a stalemate over tanks. Ukraine's President says the country desperately needs them and there is no alternative.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but Germany has failed to reach an agreement on sending its leopard tanks to Ukraine because German officials say they will not send those tanks unless the United States sends its own M1 Abrams tanks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is urging Germany to provide the tanks to counter any spring offensive by Russia.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a crucial moment. Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to re-equip. This is not a moment to slow down. It's a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us. The Kremlin is watching us. And history is watching us.


WALKER: All this comes as the U.S. is finalizing a $2.5 billion aid package for Ukraine. Let's get more now from Ukraine on the tank standoff and the latest missile strikes.

SANCHEZ: CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins us live now. And Ben, you're in an area that was hit with a missile strike not far from the sight of a kindergarten, right?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now actually, we've moved to the town of Kostyantynivka, which overnight was hit by 12 Russian missiles strikes. No word of any casualties in this instance. But earlier, yes, we were in Kramatorsk, where yesterday morning, a missile landed right in front of a kindergarten killing one person. The kindergarten, however, was not in session, because in this part of the country, most people have left and those who've stayed behind are getting remote education.

Now as you can tell, obviously, this part of Ukraine is really taking the brunt of Russian firepower. Not far from here, the Battle of Bakhmut is raging. We've spent quite a lot of time out there and seeing that the Ukrainian forces are really struggling to stop this Russian offensive that is slowly gaining ground, particularly around the city of Bakhmut.

All of this is adding to the frustration of the Ukrainians as they watch their Western allies, simply incapable of a green on some sort of deal to get these tanks particularly the German made leopard, two tanks to the Ukraine. And yesterday we heard President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying now is not the time to wait.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The war started by Russia does not allow delays and I can thank you hundreds of times and it will be absolutely just in fear given all that we have already done but hundreds of thank you are not hundreds of dents.


WEDEMAN: In fact, that the Ukrainians have asked for as many as 300 tanks. They're receiving some from the U.K. but certainly it's not enough. And I can tell you, having been on the front lines, what they have at the moment in terms of tanks are very old tanks dating back more than 50 years. Other equipment we've seen, for instance, artillery pieces, dating back to 1950.


Old weapons like those simply aren't enough to counterbalance the numerical superiority and the superiority of weaponry that the Russians enjoy.

WALKER: Ben Wedeman, I appreciate your reporting as always, thank you very much.

So the Justice Department on Friday signaled it is unlikely to share information about ongoing criminal investigations with the new Republican controlled House.

SANCHEZ: Let's bring in CNN White House Reporter Jasmine Wright, who's following this story closely for us. Jasmine, walk us through the details.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Well, Boris, Amara, this all started because Jim Jordan, now chair of the Judiciary Committee on the House GOP side, basically has been asking for a broad selection of materials from the Department of Justice, including documents, briefings, other type of materials.

And so this response to the Department of Justice basically saying, well, we want to have an effective and positive working relationship with the committee, there are just certain things that we will not send. And that includes ongoing investigations like that special inquiry into Biden's handling of classified documents and also former President Trump's handling of classified documents.

So in a letter to Jim Jordan, the Department of Justice said that, "Consistent with long standing policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the department's interests and protecting the integrity of its work."

Here we see the Department of Justice really leaning on past precedents. Now the Judiciary Committee did not respond kindly to this letter. They wrote in a tweet quickly after, "Why is the DOJ so scared to cooperate with our investigations?"

Now for the White House side down Pennsylvania Avenue, they haven't yet responded officially to requests from the Judiciary Committee or the Oversight Committee about things like that documents issue with Biden or other facets of the administration that they are promised to look into quite severely.

And now the White House when you talk to officials there, they say that they are going to respond to good faith inquiries from these two committees. But as they see it, they've really signaled that because of who was on the committees like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, really hardline GOP Republicans that they don't necessarily see these at this time in good faith.

But of course, those deadlines will come up as those Republicans are promising to enact compulsory methods to get folks to come in and testify. So we will see really as the situation grows how the White House responds, but right now it looks like they're going to be responding relatively combatively. Boris, Amara?

SANCHEZ: Jasmine Wright, thanks so much for the reporting.

Let's dig deeper now with New York Times White House Correspondent Jim Tankersley. Jim, appreciate you being with us this Saturday morning. Let's start with the DOJ announcement that Jasmine just walked through. How does that change Republicans efforts both practically and in their messaging?

JIM TANKERSLEY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I'm not sure that it changes much practically, I think they're going to keep pushing as hard as they can to get these documents. And in the messaging, it's going to stay relatively consistent as well. And what we're seeing here is what often happens when a new majority takes over, you get the investigative powers, you see real political upside to using them.

And so you try to push as hard as you can. And you denounce anyone who doesn't cooperate. And I think that's what's going on here. And we'll see more of that.

SANCHEZ: The White House has told CNN that these Republican led probes are, quote, messaging sideshows. Jasmine noted the combative tone that the White House has taken. Do you expect they might cooperate in any way at all?

TANKERSLEY: I would certainly expect that at some point there will be some White House officials who end up going up and testifying in front of some of these congressional committees, conducting the investigations. Which committees, when that might happen, I can't say. But, you know, that this tends to be what happens when investigations go on of the White House there. They have to cooperate at least a little bit.

But I think that, you know, from a messaging standpoint, for the White House, they do see this as a sideshow. And so the more that they engage, politically speaking, the more they think they have to lose. Whereas if they can sort of ignore it as much as possible and sort of call Republicans, you know, outliers for doing this, then they can try to focus on the issues they care most about.

SANCHEZ: Pivoting now to the nation's debt ceiling, the United States hitting it just a few days ago, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has agreed to a meeting at the White House to discuss this with President Biden. The White House says they are not negotiating on spending cuts which Republicans want in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Where do you see room for a deal here?

TANKERSLEY: Sure, there's lots of room for a deal. And the good news is we have a few months, despite all the brinksmanship that's already started, the Treasury Department has started these extraordinary measures that will keep the U.S. government able to pay its bills for at least until June. So that's good news.

There's a lot that they can do. They can talk about spending not linked to the debt limit. And they can sort of do that in a kind of a wink nod way or they can do that in an explicit way. But the President could certainly negotiate some sort of deal with Democratic leaders in Congress and Republican leaders to, you know, start a commission to tackle the nation's debt going forward or something that the White House could credibly call independent of the debt limit.


The speaker would have to agree to a vote to raise the debt limit. So that sort of is the workaround. That's probably the compromise that a lot of people in Washington are hoping for or expecting. But it may be not enough for the speaker, and for it particularly the energized members of his caucus who really want to draw a line on the debt limit.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And Jim, you mentioned that brinksmanship that we've seen, especially in years past, the U.S. got dinged at one point for getting dangerously close to defaulting. Are you optimistic that we'll see a deal before June when that default is estimated to happen?

TANKERSLEY: I'm not super optimistic that we're going to see a deal before the last minute. I think that that is our lesson, unfortunately, with these standoffs in the past. And that could be a real problem. What we saw in 2011, when we got closest to going over the debt limit cliff, was that mortgages got more expensive, business borrowing got more expensive, consumer confidence went down. There were real economic effects. And I think we could see them again this time.

SANCHEZ: So Politico is reporting that former President Trump has a warning for Republicans. He's urging them to not touch Medicare or Social Security in this debt limit fight. It is obviously the focus of some fiscal hawks that are determined to make changes to entitlements. Do you think they're going to adhere to that message?

TANKERSLEY: Well, I think that is one of the great questions of this negotiation. You do have a lot of Republicans and we wrote about this before the midterms, a lot of Republicans in the House really do want to make at least incremental changes to Social Security, Medicare, like raising retirement ages, in order to reduce cost growth of those programs going forward.

President Biden loves that fight. He has vowed not to cut Social Security or Medicare at all, and he is drawing a line in the sand on that. So whether Republicans in the House back down from that, as former President Trump is calling for, would probably be good politics. But on a economic side, I think you have members there who are really dug in on this thought that they need to bend the curve of the U.S. debt path, and that you have to touch those programs if you want to do it.

SANCHEZ: And that could be very dangerous electorally, considering where some of those members stand. Jim Tankersley, thank you so much for the time.

TANKERSLEY: Thank you so much for having me.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

WALKER: Actor Alec Baldwin is facing manslaughter charges in connection with that deadly shooting on the "Rust" movie set. But do prosecutors have a strong enough case to make those charges stick? We will discuss.

Also passengers aren't the only ones being compensated for the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown by the company's paying out millions to employees as well. And an AP African American studies course will not be taught in Florida high schools. Why the DeSantis administration says it's not suitable for students. We're joined by one history professor who says that instruction is critical.



WALKER: New this morning, an attorney for "Rust" movie productions tells CNN that the film is still on track for completion and will still star Alec -- actor Alec Baldwin in that leading role.

SANCHEZ: That's even after New Mexico's District Attorney announced pending involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin following the fatal onset shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baldwin lawyers say he was blindsided by the criminal charges. Baldwin himself told CNN just a few months ago --

ALEX BALDWIN, ACTOR/PRODUCER: They're not going to charge anybody in my mind. Criminal charges are things you avoid unless you know you can make a case.

WATT (voice-over): Baldwin was a producer on "Rust" and an actor. He was pointing the gun, not knowing it was loaded towards cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off killing her.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: He's been charged as both. He was the actor that pulled the trigger. So certainly, he's charged as an actor.

WATT (voice-over): Baldwin denies he pulled the trigger and an actor charged for an accident on set is raising some eyebrows.

DUNCAN CRABTREE-IRELAND, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAF-AFTRA: Actors cannot be expected and are not expected to do final safety checks.

BALDWIN: My job is not to concentrate on whether the gun is safe. We have people there for that.

WATT (voice-over): Like the armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed who is charged with involuntary manslaughter along with Baldwin. Baldwin says the first Assistant Director Dave Halls actually handed him the weapon. Told him it was safe.

LISA TORRACO, ATTORNEY FOR DAVID HALLS: We stand very firm that he did not hand the gun to Alec Baldwin.

WATT (voice-over): Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. Still unanswered, how did live ammunition even get on to this set?

TORRACO: We have an idea.

WATT (voice-over): So, can she share that idea?

TORRACO: I can't. And the reason I can't is we have given that information to the district attorney and they need to do their own follow up.

WATT (voice-over): Accidents like this are very, very rare. Brandon Lee on a Bruce was killed on a film set nearly 30 years ago hit by a bullet fragment fired from a prop gun that should have been empty. Criminal charges were never filed. This actor was holding the gun.

MICHAEL MASSEE, ACTOR: I mean, what happened to Brandon was a tragic accident and it's something that I'm going to live with.

WATT (voice-over): However, this criminal case against Alec Baldwin plays out. He will live with what happened to Halyna.

BALDWIN: The toughest part is we can never bring her back. Never. There's nothing we can do to undo that. I give anything to undo that. And we can't.



WATT: Now a civil settlement was reached with Halyna Hutchins family a couple of months ago. Part of that deal, if filming of "Rust" resumes, her husband Matthew will serve as an executive producer. Now, he said at the time that he had, quote, no interest in recriminations or attribution of blame that his wife's death was, quote, a terrible accident.

But now, the family says that these new charges are quote, warranted. And by the way, if Alec Baldwin is convicted, jail time is a possibility. Boris, Amara?

WALKER: Wow, fascinating. Nick Watt, thank you very much.

Here to discuss this further is CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, good to see you this morning. What are your thoughts on Alec Baldwin even being charged in the first place, especially looking at precedent in the past where in similar incidents in Hollywood, the person who fired the gun was not charged?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a stretch, Amara, to be honest. I think they're overreaching a bit here. No, this is not regular negligence, like in a lawsuit. This is criminal negligence. They have to prove a gross deviation from the standard of care.

And I think that's going to be challenging for prosecutors to do when Alec Baldwin defense defense will be, you know, listen, I was handed the gun and told that it was safe, two times over. The armorer had responsibility, the assistant director had responsibility. I think it's going to be a challenge to find 12 people who will find unanimously beyond a reasonable doubt and (INAUDIBLE) evidently in those circumstances.

WALKER: I do want to play some of what the District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies had to say. Listen to this.


CARMACK-ALTWIES: Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they are going to handle that gun, pointed at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone. An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor. And that's what's so important is that we're saying here in New Mexico, everyone's equal under the law.


WALKER: OK, so what do you say to that, especially when you hear from industry professionals who have repeatedly said that it, you know, lies with the armorer and the assistant director, you know, to check the gun, to check the chamber and to determine whether or not it's cold and safe?

RODGERS: I think that what the D.A. is saying there sounds more like a strict liability standard to me, that's not the proper legal standard. You know, you can't say just because someone handled the gun, and it went off that they're automatically responsible for the consequences. You have to look at what they did, what their mental state is in order to charge them criminally. So, you know, honestly, she's got the wrong legal standard here that's not going to hold up in court.

WALKER: Are you surprised that Baldwin's attorney is saying that they were totally blindsided by these charges, that they were not given any kind of heads up?

RODGERS: Well, that's unusual. I mean, you know, often in criminal cases, of course, the defendant is not notified until they're charged. And apparently, he hasn't been charged yet. But the D.A. did send that they had been in contact and you would expect in a case like this with all the publicity, it's generating the fact that they're not concerned that Alec Baldwin is going to flee the jurisdiction or anything like that, that he would have been -- he would have been notice but, you know, it's not technically a requirement. There's nothing improper about not telling them. But I am a little bit surprised.

WALKER: Yes. So what is the range of possibilities then, you know, from one extreme to the next, and the case being dismissed altogether to Alec Baldwin facing some jail time? RODGERS: Yes, absolutely. And in fact, they're charging this case, at least, as they've described it in the alternative. And one of the alternatives is, if the jury finds this particular theory of involuntary manslaughter, that he could face a mandatory five years in prison. So that is the most possibility. And that's significant, obviously, five years in prison. So that's the worst case. Best case for Alec Baldwin, of course, is that it never sees inside of a courtroom.

WALKER: And what about the fact that, you know, we still don't know at least it's that out -- it's not public, you know, why there were live rounds on this Hollywood set in the first place? I mean, where do we go from here if we don't know, you know, why it was there in the first place?

RODGERS: Yes, I think that's a real challenge for prosecutors here because it's not a technical requirement that they prove that in order to convict Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed but the jury is going to want to know, you know, how did they get there in the first place, who fell down on the job or did something purposefully criminal in order to put them in that position on the set in the first place?

So I think that's a problem for prosecutors, as they move forward with this case against these two defendants. And we'll have to see if they can figure it out. A 550-page report from the sheriff's office couldn't figure it out. So I don't know --


RODGERS: -- how they're going to make (INAUDIBLE) from that. But that's a problem for them, I think.

WALKER: And then we saw in Nick Watt's report that the film's assistant director David Halls, he's the one by the way who reportedly handed that gun to Baldwin saying that it was cold. He pleaded to a negligent use of a deadly weapon agreement.


And then now he is facing six months of probation and a suspended sentence. Are there any implications for his plea agreement to Baldwin's case?

RODGERS: Well, he might have to cooperate and testify under the terms of that agreement. We don't know for sure. But the question is, you know, what can he say that he hasn't already said? I mean, it seems to me from what we know publicly, that his testimony is helpful to Baldwin's in the sense that he will admit that he took the gun and that it was his job to check it and he handed it over and said that it was safe.

So he may testify in the case against Baldwin. But it doesn't seem to me from what we know now that that testimony will hurt Baldwin.

WALKER: Got it. Jennifer Rodgers, appreciate your expertise on this. Thank you very much. RODGERS: Thanks so much.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, a controversial decision in Florida. The state blocking a new AP course for high school students on African American studies. Someone involved in the early stages of developing this class is going to join us next to discuss.



WALKER: So here are some of the other top stories we are following this hour. New Mexico's Attorney General's office tells CNN that it is now leading a probe into the campaign finances of former Republican political candidate Solomon Pena. He is accused of hiring and conspiring with four men to shoot at the homes of several democratic officials.

According to Albuquerque police investigators, we're looking into whether Pena's campaign was being funded in part by cash from narcotic sales that were laundered into campaign contributions. A hearing is set for Monday to determine whether Pena should be detained or released with conditions.

SANCHEZ: Respiratory illnesses seem to be easing for the first time since September with COVID-19 flu and RSV numbers dropping to the lowest levels seen in three months. New CDC data tracking ER visits shows that respiratory viruses continue to trend downward across the country. Health experts are saying this is a good indicator but not a reason to drop precautions just yet.

WALKER: Southwest Airlines will pay its approximately 9,400 pilots about $45 million in bonuses for working through the holiday travel meltdown in late December. The company says it will compensate other employees as well but did not clarify who that was and how much they will receive. The airline says 16,700 flights were canceled between December 21 and the 29th and that will cost the company up to $825 million.

SANCHEZ: The state of Florida recently blocked a new advanced placement course for high school students focusing on African American Studies. Earlier this week, Florida's Department of Education told the College Board which oversees AP classes that the course is contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.

After CNN asked for clarification and specifics, Governor Ron DeSantis's office provided us this one-page document explaining that the state questions the inclusion and context surrounding topics including the movement for black lives, black feminist literary thought and the study of reparations.

The class is a new offering that the AP program has been developing for about a decade. It's currently offered as a pilot in 60 schools across the country this school year with a board planning to make it available to all schools in 2024. Joining us now to discuss is Dr. Nikki Taylor, a history professor and chair of the History Department at Howard University. Dr. Taylor, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate your time. First, why is it that teaching African American history at this level is so important for students?

DR. NIKKI TAYLOR, CHAIR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY: Thank you so much for having me, Boris. Well, the course is African American Studies, and the Study of African Americans and their contribution to the art, music, culture, our democracy is central to understanding our nation's history. And so that's why it's important for us to finally have a course on AP American Studies -- African American Studies.

SANCHEZ: So I want to get into some of the objections with you from the state of Florida. They cite curriculum that contains what they describe as Marxist-Leninist ideology designed to overthrow capitalism. And they suggest that there isn't enough of a balancing perspective in the curriculum on reparations, for example, what are your thoughts?

TAYLOR: My thoughts are that even when African American Studies programs were being built in our nation's institutions of higher learning in the 1960s, there's always been opposition and resistance to this type of thing. And so I really don't really have any comment about the substance of the comments because these are not academics. These are not people who have PhDs and who are trained to really critique, you know, the curriculum.

The people who develop this curriculum, in fact, Boris, are some of the most prominent scholars in our nation, including scholars at Harvard, Howard and other prominent institutions of higher learning. So I seriously doubt that any critiques have any viable credibility.

SANCHEZ: So if you don't think that the objections they have are Meritus (ph), they don't have any legitimate claims of criticism, why is it you think that the state of Florida is putting this forward?

TAYLOR: I think as I said before, there's a long history of resistance to anything that attempts to make African Americans and people of African descent more central to this nation's body politic and more central to, you know, our understanding of what this nation is.


There always has been, as a historian, I'm speaking, there's always been resistance to these types of things. And so, the governor's resistance is part of that longer current of resistance to, you know, inclusion of African Americans into the wider body politic, and, you know, resistance to our legitimacy, not just in academic institutions, not just in K through 12 education, but even in the political sphere as well.

SANCHEZ: Would you make the argument that the decision to block this course from being taught is racist? TAYLOR: I would make the argument that perhaps some people have racist intent, I'm not sure I can't get into the minds and hearts of the people who are wagering -- well, you know, leveling these objections. But what I would encourage them to do is have a meaningful intellectual conversation with the scholars who put together the curriculum.

I am not one of them, but the ones who did put together the curriculum, I'm sure would gladly welcome any kind of insight, or questions that they may have about the very, you know, rigorous curriculum. Now I must say this curriculum was vetted. It was vetted by people with PhDs from the top institutions in this country.

So this is not some haphazard course that was designed by people with any kind of political objection. These are real African American Studies topics and scholars will come together. And they're bringing you information about Toni Morrison. How do we even learn American literature without including Toni Morrison? And so, this is, you know, it has no basis in my mind, these objections.

SANCHEZ: And Dr. Taylor, one last question, Florida says it's willing to take another look at the class if certain changes are made. Would you support those curriculum changes that they would want to see? Or how would you like to see this handled?

TAYLOR: I think like I said, it would take a conversation between perhaps those people, and the people who design the curriculum. But my thing, Boris, is I think politicians should stay in the business of politics. And, you know, unless they want to work on the very real problem that Florida youth half of not being proficient in math in the eighth grade, are proficient in reading. In the fourth grade, the majority of Florida youth are suffering from this.

So, you know, if you're going to really be concerned about something, let's start there in that state and the problems that they're having with their education, K through 12. So, I think they should leave this to the people who are trained, and who know how to operate college courses.

SANCHEZ: Dr. Nikki Taylor, thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate your time this morning.

TAYLOR: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

WALKER: It's a fascinating conversation there.

Up next, another jobs shake up. In the tech industry, Google's parent company cutting some 12,000 jobs amid an uncertain economy. This just the latest in a chorus of big tech companies to layoff thousands.



WALKER: There's no letup in the tech industry layoffs. Google's parent company is among the latest to announced job cuts 12,000 in total.

SANCHEZ: Tens of thousands of tech jobs in Silicon Valley have been lost since the start of last year. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has more.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Amara. Google is just the latest tech company announcing layoffs. Now Google CEO Sundar Pichai saying the cuts come after massive hiring over the last few years for what he calls a different economic reality than we are in today.

So Google with their 12,000 layoffs now join major tech companies like Amazon, Meta and Microsoft, who just announced 10,000 layoffs on Wednesday. And this month alone, nearly 39,000 layoffs in tech. The ramp up in hiring over the last few years was driven by e-commerce and Americans investment in tech. But with inflation and fears of a recession, companies are now cutting back and course correcting, unfortunately, at the cost of people's jobs.

As one analyst put it, these companies were spending like 1980s rock stars, and now the Cinderella ride has ended for now at least because many of these companies are investing in other areas like artificial intelligence, and they'll be hiring again. But for the foreseeable future, we could see additional tech layoffs.

Just want to point out -- a one point of perspective, tech represents 2 percent of overall employment. Compare that with leisure and hospitality, which represents 11 percent. Last week's unemployment claims came in well below normal at 190,000, suggesting that companies are actually not laying people off.

In fact, industries like leisure and hospitality are hungry for workers. So while tech is an important part of the labor market, it's not representative, Boris and Amara, of the entire picture.

WALKER: Yes, that's a good point.

All right. Well, home prices had a record high last year even though the real estate market took a downturn. The median price of a home in 2022 was a little more than 386,000, the highest on record going back to 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors.


But home sales have their weakest year since 2014, with just over 5 million homes sold down nearly 18 percent from the year before.

SANCHEZ: The soaring inflation we've seen over the last few years has led many people to find new ways of saving money on their family budgets. And one trend we're starting to see specifically deals with eggs.

WALKER: Yes, the price of eggs has increased more than any other item at the supermarket. Nearly 60 percent year over year, so more and more people are putting the chickens in their own backyards. CNN's Gabe Cohen with more.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every morning, Cassidy O'Donnell fetches a feast from her Pennsylvania yard.

CASSIDY O'DONNELL, CHICKEN OWNER: Drop that one in there.

COHEN (voice-over): Fresh eggs from eight chickens, an idea she hatched last spring as food prices surged.

O'DONNELL: We had seen that the price of eggs had gone up quite a bit and now they've gotten even more expensive. So grateful for the decision that we made a year ago.

COHEN (voice-over): The price of eggs is up a rotten 60 percent in a year. Largely driven by a deadly avian flu outbreak across 47 states that's left some store shelves empty.

O'DONNELL: Come on.

COHEN (voice-over): Inspiring more Americans to invest in backyard chickens, hoping to save some scratch.

MIKE HIGMAN, OWNER, MY PET CHICKEN: What we're seeing right now is just a wakeup call for a lot of our customers.

COHEN (voice-over): Mike Higman owns My Pet Chicken, which sells chicks and supplies for backyard flocks. He says business is booming up 80 percent this month compared to a year ago.

HIGMAN: We're looking at record numbers because people are seeing the prices of eggs going up in stores and that they're out of stock. There are people that are concerned with what things are going to look like for food prices and food availability over the next 12 months in here.


COHEN (voice-over): Rene Ruiz built this coop last May and purchased three chickens with eight more just hatched, concerned with the cost of feeding his family of five.

RUIZ: I just don't think it's sustainable for people to continue to just pay what they're being asked to pay in the supermarket without having an alternative. And that's what this is.

COHEN (voice-over): But his hens still haven't laid their first eggs. And he's already spent more than $1,000 on this project.

(on-camera): Do you think this will be worth it in the long run as opposed to just buying eggs?

RUIZ: Yes, it's going to pay off not only after my first year, but just long term if I continue this process.

COHEN (voice-over): But some experts are skeptical.

(on-camera): You think most families won't actually end up saving money?

BRIGID MCCREA, POULTRY SPECIALIST: No, the numbers don't really work out.

COHEN (voice-over): Brigid McCrea is a poultry specialist that teaches chicken owners how to raise small flocks, and she's warning them not to wing it as costs like feed, housing, equipment, electricity and time, she says, can drive up the average cost of backyard eggs to more than $20 a dozen.

MCCREA: The reality is that you're going to spend more money on your chickens at home than you are on eggs at the grocery store.

COHEN (voice-over): But Cassidy O'Donnell says her hands are already fluffing the family's bottom line, laying roughly eight dozen eggs each month, which could cost more than $40 in a store. Instead, she's spending about 20 bucks on chicken feed.

O'DONNELL: So we're saving a lot having them in the backyard right now.

COHEN (voice-over): And she expects roughly 150 eggs a month once the weather warms up and says they'll try to sell what they can't eat.

O'DONNELL: That's like $70 in eggs at the store right now. So yes, we'll see a return on it.


COHEN: Now there is some good news this week, the Department of Agriculture says egg prices have been dropping just a bit. But Boris, Amara, there are still major supply concerns, as well as that avian flu that even small flock owners need to watch out for.

WALKER: I don't know, maybe it'll be a good long-term investment.

SANCHEZ: A great breakfast story from Gabe Cohen. I was just going to say it could be a long-term investment. It seems like you have to clean a lot. There's a smell associated with it.


SANCHEZ: I'm not sure -- my neighbors in my apartment building would like to have chicken coop on my balcony either. What do you think, Amara?

WALKER: Well, you know, what works out is if you have friends who actually live on a farm, which I do, who are so kind enough to donate their eggs to us, although it stopped in the last few months. I don't know if house prices but I have to say those eggs from these farms tastes so much better. I don't know if it's just in my mind and the yolk. It's just this beautiful orange.


WALKER: Yes. I love my eggs running (ph). SANCHEZ: I can see that.


SANCHEZ: I can see that. Send me some of those eggs when you get more, please.

WALKER: No. It's too expensive.

SANCHEZ: No, why?

WALKER: No, it's all for me and my kids.

SANCHEZ: All right, thanks a lot, Amara.

WALKER: I'll think about it.

SANCHEZ: Stay with CNN This Morning, we'll be right back.



WALKER: Tributes are pouring in from all around the world for legendary singer and songwriter David Crosby after his death on Thursday. The 81-year-old was one of the founding members of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, and a pioneer in the folk and rock music genres.

SANCHEZ: CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with Crosby's longtime friend, singer James Taylor.


JAMES TAYLOR, SINGER/SONGWRITER: David, so my relationship, our friendship was -- it was always one of sort of mutual support, you know? We sort of understood that each other, you know, we were working with the same information, we spoke the same language.

We have this history, the same relationship with our times, and we were also, you know, we were also deeply into the music. And so for me it was just a natural fit.



TAYLOR: But, of course, David and I also had our struggles with the substance abuse with addiction. And that was also a real connection real, a real, you know, a real touch point between the two of us, another sort of common world.


SANCHEZ: Crosby was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Byrds in 1991. And again, with Crosby's Stills and Nash in 1997. An icon and a legend and rock and roll.

So we're going to be back in just about an hour from now. We hope you'll stay with us.

WALKER: Smerconish is up next after a quick break. See you in an hour.