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CNN 10 - February 12, 2019

CNN 10

United Kingdom Makes Trade Deal with Switzerland and Looking for More Trade Agreements; Significance of the Northern Ireland "Backstop"; Slowing Economy of China; The Ability of Bees to Learn Math; Project Debater

Aired February 12, 2019 - 04:00:00 ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: With your midweek edition of CNN 10, I`m Carl Azuz. It`s great to have you with us. Diving right in, the United Kingdom has made a trade deal with Switzerland. That`s significant because the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29th, what`s known as the Brexit, and Britain could lose the trade agreements it has with other countries if it breaks away from the European Union without a plan in place. So the British government says this deal with Switzerland is hugely important to British businesses and law makers are under pressure to make more trade deals before the Brexit occurs.

Prime Minister Teresa May has been working on an agreement with European Union officials on how to separate Britain from the block of 27 other countries. Last month, their initial plan failed to win the approval from British parliament which it will need to go through. So Prime Minister May`s been trying to find a new compromise with the European Union that Britain`s parliament will approve and the clock is ticking because of the March 29th deadline. One sticking point in all this concerns Northern Ireland. When Britain leaves the European Union, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will become a physical border between Britain and the European Union. So what`s become known as the Northern Ireland "Backstop" has become a crucial part of the Brexit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the "backstop"? At it simplest, it an insurance policy to keep Europe`s new land border with the UK just as it is today. Invisible. So what`s all the fuss? It`s complicated. Let`s start here, 2016. The UK referendum to leave the EU, Brexit. That`s England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all leaving. The snag, England, Scotland, Wales are on island while Northern Ireland is on another island with the Republic of Ireland which remains in the EU. And that means unlike the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has a land border with the EU. Are you with me so far?

So what`s the problem you might ask? Whack a few custom`s posts and passport offices and everything should be good. Not so fast though, there is history here. A peace agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998 stipulates that all border controls be removed and that`s the reason for the "backstop`. The "backstop" itself says, even if the EU and UK can`t agree their new relationship, the border stays open. But the way that`s shaking out right now at least, means Northern Ireland slowly develops a different relationship with the EU and the rest of the UK and that`s the "backstop" in a nutshell. The problem comes with the last and biggest detail. The Northern Irish politicians who the UK prime minister depends on for power won`t accept the "backstop".

And nor will many members of the prime minister`s conservative party. They say, it effectively creates a new border between the island of Ireland and the Island of England, Scotland and Wales and they won`t accept it. It`s a UK-EU impasse that has a lot of people worrying about the blood shed before the peace agreement.


CARL AZUZ: 10 Second Trivia. Which two countries have the world`s two largest economies? The U.S. and China, China and Japan, The U.S. and Japan or China and the UK. The world`s two most powerful economies in order are the U.S. and China.

And the slow down in one of those economies can have ripple effects around the world. That`s why investors are trying to figure out what to make of China`s current slowdown to find out how serious it is because it can effect business decisions, hiring decisions and where investors in China and abroad decide to put their money. The CEO of the China Beige Book, a U.S. based economic advisory firm, says the Gross Domestic Product figures posted by China`s communist government are unreliable. So as different investment groups work to draw up their own estimates of how China`s economy is doing, CNN`s Matt Rivers gives a sense of what Chinese consumers are saying themselves.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So I`ve lived in China now since 2015 and one of the first thing I noticed when I got here was this sense of economic optimism that when it comes to individual opportunity, things were looking good. But over the last couple months, there`s a thought that maybe that`s begun to change. To be fair, there`s a lot of reasons to be pessimistic these days. For starters, there`s that giant trade war you might have heard of, China just posted it`s annual GDP growth rate since 1990 and the main stock market lost more than a quarter of it`s value since early last year. Things have cooled enough that you don`t have to be an economist to notice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE TRANSLATED: We usually set up payments with our clients before the Chinese New Year but this year is particular difficult to get our payments on time.

RIVERS: Jung Ye Chi (ph) works in construction and renovation and says a rough real estate market means her clients aren`t selling as many apartments as before. It`s enough her to think about her own spending habits. She`s now using an app that lets her pay for big ticket items over time like a new car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE TRANSLATED: We can`t afford to buy it at it`s full price but we can choose to buy it in small installments and pay it back month by month.

RIVERS: In 2018, China new car sales shrunk for the first time in 20 years. Iphone sales were off 15 percent and luxury brands could face a tough 2019. In a slowing economy what people choose to spend their disposable income on changes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TRANSLATED: Working out isn`t like getting your (ph) housing. Those are must haves. Working out as - -

RIVERS: Jo Chang (ph) owns a gym in Beijing that has seen slowing sales this year. A trend he says has forced other gyms to close throughout the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE TRANSLATED: Most people already have housing loans, car loans and so on. Only when they can lower that pressure a little bit can they consider other needs like working out.

RIVERS: Amid slowing traditional growth drivers like manufacturing, China is depending on consumer spending to support the economy. A recent consumer confidence survey by Beijing based Capital University puts 2018 Fourth Quarter Index at 99.4. Anything below 100 means consumers aren`t optimistic over all about the economy. Now some economists say there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Chinese consumer.

Spending on services rather than goods, think travel, leisure, healthcare is actually up. There`s a big tax cut that could be in play this year and retail sales will still grow. But the fact that I can easily come out on the street here and find multiple people who will tell me that they`re worried about the economy, well that`s different than it was when I first got here. Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.


CARL AZUZ: A study involving bees and mathematics is generating some buzz, get it. Researchers at RMIT University in Australia say honeybees can be trained to add and subtract. What they did was put the insects into a Y shaped container and showed them blue or yellow shapes. The blue ones were supposed to symbolize addition, the yellow ones subtraction. Then the bees had a decision to make, if they were shown blue shades first they had to choose to fly to the chamber that displayed one more shape than they first saw. If they saw yellow shapes, they had to the chamber that showed one fewer shape.

Correct decisions were rewarded with sugar water which they like and incorrect ones with bitter tasting quinine which they don`t. After 100 trials like this, the insects were tested without sugar water or quinine and scientists say they chose the correct chamber between 63 and 72 percent of the time. So they didn`t ace the exam but they reportedly did well enough to demonstrate they`d learned something. So what?

Well this probably won`t help the bees themselves but researchers say it helps scientists better understand the relationship between brain size and brain power. That is shows animals might have a better understanding of numbers than scientists thought and that the study could be used to help develop artificial intelligence by improving a system`s ability to learn faster.

Of course artificial intelligence systems still have a lot to learn as seen at a recent debate between a human debate champion and an IBM computer named Project Debater.

ROBOT: Greetings Harish (ph). I have heard (inaudible) debate competition wins against humans. But I suspect you`ve never debated a machine.

AZUZ: The machine had been uploaded with newspaper and magazine articles related to the debate topic and it was supposed to take into account it`s human opponents statements in forming its arguments. While Project Debater, the computer, was defeated it still showed that AI systems are progressing towards increasingly complex tasks.

You can say it`s style was "robotic" but still it was a little bit "hypnotic". It made "soundbytes", "newsbytes" and though it still would lose it might take something "monotone" like robot voicemails on the phone and turn them into arguments that makes you wonder. Are you meant to debate a debate machine? The kind that thinks a human being. The kind that seems relatable and makes debates debatable. It`s all up for debate I guess. I`m Carl Azuz on the loose with CNN 10.