Monthly Archives: February 2019

A Mets outfielder missed a game because he undercooked chicken

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Tim Brydak, seen here in 2012, set a dangerous precedent for the Mets.

Don’t ask for his recipe for (blue and) orange chicken.

Rarely has a spring training injury ruffled as many feathers as Brandon Nimmo missing the New York Mets’ game on Wednesday. The outfielder was sent home because of food poisoning, with the most Mets possible cause.

Tim Healey of Newsday keeps us abreast of the issue.

No matter how you slice it, this incident is another figurative pox on the Mets, who introduced hand, foot, and mouth disease of all things to baseball last year.

Nimmo was a rare bright spot on last year’s Mets, a good egg on a team that featured Jacob deGrom and little else. Nimmo hit .263/.404/.483 with 17 home runs in his first full season, one of just six qualified major leaguer hitters to post a .400 on-base percentage.

Nimmo turns just 26 in March. All his career trajectory arroz (con pollo) are pointing upward.

So he’s very good at baseball, but not so good at cooking chicken.

While the specter of the Mets hiring someone to actually teach Nimmo how to prepare chicken sounds like a blast, why make your own chicken when Guy Frieri will soon be able to bring Flavortown poultry to you?

But before all you Chicken Littles think the sky is falling, it’s likely Nimmo will only miss a short amount of time with this unfortunate illness. Just be sure when Nimmo returns, he stays away from the Steak Shack at Citi Field, just to be safe.

With Nimmo waiting in the wings, the Mets started Rajai Davis, Keon Broxton and Rymer Liriano in the outfield on Wednesday, and were able to get a leg up over the Marlins.

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The 16 LeBron James quotes that tell the story of the Lakers’ bizarre season

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James’ tone has shifted, from excitement in joining the Lakers to annoyance with his team’s struggles mid-season.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been divided into two distinct and profoundly different times: before LeBron James got injured on Christmas Day, and after.

Before James went down with a groin injury that cost him 17 games, LA was 20-14 and optimistic. Now, two months later, things have crashed and burned, and the team is in serious danger of missing the postseason. As of Feb. 27, they are 29-31, in 11th place in the West and three games (plus the tiebreaker) behind the Spurs for the No. 8 seed. This is significant, as James has made the postseason for 15 straight years, not to mention his eight-season Finals streak.

His vibe with the team has also changed. At the beginning of his tenure in LA, James seemed more willing to wait on the growth of his young teammates. That progressed into all of those teammates being tossed in trade rumors involving Anthony Davis ahead of the deadline. Now that a deal didn’t happen, there’s shades of passive-aggressiveness in James’ tone.

Here’s a look at LAs season through the cryptic, upbeat, and self-appraising words of James.

July 29: This is a “dream come true”

Via Uninterrupted:

“This is, this is kinda like a dream come true for me,” James said. “You know, growing up I was a Cowboys fan, I was a Bulls fan, I was a Yankees fan, and I’ve always felt like that was like one of the historic franchises. You look at the Lakers, being able to play for a historic franchise you know, with so much history you know.”

July 30: James explains why he didn’t demand a trade for another star

Because I love the young guys that they have, and I’m not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I believe Rob [Pelinka] and Magic [Johnson] and Jeanie [Buss] have done an unbelievable job of reshaping what the organization should be, keeping Dr. Buss’ dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. I feel like they know what’s best for the team and I wanted to be a piece to continue that motion of being back to a championship franchise where they should be.

Oct. 11: James will “be as patient as I can be” with the young guys

“I would never get into [an East-West] conversation like that,” James told Yahoo Sports, referring to the immediate departure of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Dion Waiters upon his return to Cleveland in 2014. “‘Oh, he’s competitive in the East, but [the West is different].’ I’m well respected by my peers and that’s all that matters. I’m going to be as patient as I can be. I know I got a young squad, but these guys are willing to learn and I’m willing to learn with them.”

Oct. 20: James makes an interesting statement

“There’s a lot of excitement today,” James said. “A lot of excitement for our fans I believe, from the city. We’re excited to showcase to our fans what we’ve been working on for the last month. I can promise to our fans we’re not the team tonight that we’re gonna be in January and February, but we will be extremely excited to be out there.”

That line raised Silver Screen and Roll’s eyebrows at the time, and looks especially poignant now.

Oct. 28: James posts an individual accomplishment following a loss. It won’t be the first time

View this post on Instagram

‍♂️⬆️. S/O Akron Ohio!!! #imnotevenascorer ‍♂️#striveforgreatness #jamesgang #thekidfromakron #rwtw

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Following L.A’s 110-106 loss to the Spurs — which dropped the Lakers to 2-4 on the season — James put a graphic on Instagram showing he’d moved up to No. 6 on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list.

Oct. 30: “You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out.”

James said this after the Lakers fell to 2-5 on the season. In fairness, he was led on a bit by reporters.

“We talk about patience but you can’t have reoccurrence of the same thing,” James told reporters after the loss to the Timberwolves.

“If you are doing the same things over and over and over and expecting the same result then that’s insanity.

“So we have to get better. We can’t keep having the same mistakes over and over.”

Q: You’ve mentioned patience this whole year. At what point does that patience run out, and what do you look like as a leader when your patience does run out?

JAMES: “You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out. I’m serious.”

Dec. 19: James is excited about the idea of playing with Anthony Davis

“That would be amazing,” James told ESPN on before the Lakers’ 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, referring to the Lakers landing Davis through a trade. “That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible.”

The Lakers were 18-13 at the time of this quote, but things were about to turn.

Dec. 22: James expanded his list to show he’d welcome all star players to LA

From Silver Screen and Roll:

“Ask me would I like to play with Kevin Durant,” James said.

When a reporter asked James exactly that, James said “absolutely,” and then went on to further his argument by basically listing a group of players that he’d like to play with.

“Ask me if I’d like to play with Jimmy Butler. Ask me about Kyrie Irving. Giannis. Ask me about Embiid, Ben Simmons. Go ahead, all of them. Luka Doncic. Ask me right now. Come on, guys. It’s not rocket science,” James said. “These are great players, absolutely I would love to play with a lot of great players. That’s just who I am.”

James was trying to diffuse his Davis comments, but it didn’t work.

Dec. 26: James is “not concerned” about his groin injury

“With me, with injuries, I’m never too concerned about them. I was able to walk off under my own power. I felt a pop and tried to see if i could stretch it a few times if it’d relieve, but it didn’t.”

James suffered the injury on Christmas Day and went on to miss 18 games. The Lakers went 6-12 in those contests.

Feb. 5: ‘Fantasy basketball

James was asked about the ongoing Davis rumors that many felt he — or at least his friend’s Rich Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports — initiated.

Feb. 5: James moves up the all-time scoring list and posts about it after a franchise-worst loss

View this post on Instagram

Still can’t believe when I’m listed with any of the GREATEST OF GREATS to ever play this beautiful game! The man above thank you so much for picking me up and out of where I come from. Making me see what was my path out of it and taking full advantage of it! This is crazy to me. Don’t even have anything else to say cause so much is going through my mind right now. Guess all else I can say is THANK YOU BASKETBALL!! #striveforgreatness #jamesgang #thekidfromakron

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

The Lakers lost by 42 (!) points to the Pacers, who were without Victor Oladipo.

Feb. 13: James doesn’t seem worried about the playoffs

“You either make it or you don’t make it. That’s when you worry about it.”

That was his response when asked. Then, he was asked if the team lost focus after the hyped up trade deadline:

“That’s a possibility.”

Feb. 20 : “I don’t fear nothing”

The reality of being a sub-.500 team is starting to set in here.

“It’s been a while. It’s been quite a while for me since I’ve been under .500 going into the All-Star break. I don’t remember the last time. So my level of intensity — for me unfortunately because I don’t like to do it at such an early time — has been activated, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do,” James said after practice on Wednesday.

“I don’t fear nothing. I don’t fear,” James said, repeating “I don’t fear” once more for emphasis. “I’m all about being uncomfortable. I fall in love with being uncomfortable, so this is another uncomfortable thing for me and I love it.”

Feb. 23: James says he’s not accustomed to losing

“The last few years, everyone’s so accustomed to the losses that I’m just not accustomed to. I’m not accustomed to it, I’d never get comfortable with losing. Losing game one to Houston, it feels the same way as losing game 59 in New Orleans, for me. That’s just how I’m built. That’s who I am.”

For the record, the Lakers lost Game 59 to an Anthony Davis-less New Orleans team by 13 points.

Feb. 25: James sounds off about distractions

After a second consecutive embarrassing loss, this time to the Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies, James took a bit of a leading question from a reporter and made a statement. James was asked if the constant talk about the playoffs with 20-something games to go was a distraction for the team.

His response:

“At this point, if you are still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of, and you should just come in and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ Like, seriously, if you’re distracted by playoff pushes and all the stuff we’ve been talking about this year, then… (tails off)

“Just come and do you job; we’ll do our job at a high level, and that’s not a distraction. That’s what you want. Every game you want to feel like you’re fighting for something.”

Feb. 25: Yep, he followed that up with an Instagram post about another achievement

James is now a top-10 all-time scorer and assister.

View this post on Instagram

I literally have no words! I guess like @realcoleworld said “Even when the dark out, the sun is shining somewhere”. Throughout it all no matter good or bad appreciate the journey. Thank you to all who continue to take this journey with me. ❤️#thekidfromakron #striveforgreatness #jamesgang

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Meanwhile, the Lakers are three games out of the postseason. What more might happen with James’ mood?

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The NFL veterans who could be cut this offseason

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Some of the league’s highest-paid players will be changing addresses soon.

The 2019 offseason is underway, and clubs across the NFL have until March 13 to get their free agency plans in order. And, for some long-tenured veterans, it could mean an uncomfortable phone call from their general managers.

Players across the league will be forced to free agency as franchises slash down their rosters and create as much cap space as possible in an attempt to build a contender. Last year, former Pro Bowlers like Ndamukong Suh, Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, and Richard Sherman were all waived in order to create space for most cost-efficient talent. 2019 will be more of the same, just with different names.

February has already seen players like Connor Barwin, Matt Bryant, and Stewart all served their walking papers. A handful of other well-known players will soon join them, either moving on to the next chapter in their football careers or closing the door on their NFL experience altogether.

Here are the big names who could be released before the 2019 NFL Draft.

Already gone

Vinny Curry, DE, Buccaneers

Curry was released on Feb. 12 after underwhelming in his first season with the defense-less Bucs. Cutting him saves Tampa $8 million.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Texans

Footing the bill for Thomas’s $14.25 million 2019 was a stretch for Houston even before the veteran wideout tore his Achilles in late December. Thomas averaged only 3.3 catches per game after being traded to the Texans, marking his least productive season since 2011. The four-time Pro Bowler is 31 years old and coming off a major injury, which dampens his prospects for 2019. There’s still a place for a healthy Thomas in the league — just not at an eight-figure salary.

The Texans released him on Feb. 12 with a failed physical designation.

Charles Clay, TE, Bills

Clay fell way off his career averages in 2018, and his inability to adjust to a Josh Allen deep ball in Miami cost Buffalo a likely win against an AFC East rival.

He was released Feb. 15, a move that saves the Bills $4.5 million, and now they’ve got approximately $83 million to spend this offseason. Expect a spree in western New York this spring.

Days later, Clay landed with the Arizona Cardinals.

Almost certainly gone

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins

The Dolphins haven’t been shy about their intention to move on from Tannehill after six years. It won’t be cheap, however. Cutting the 30-year-old quarterback would excise a little less than half of his $26.6 million from Miami’s 2019 salary cap. While that eight-figure space-eating dead money is tough to swallow, that’s still $13 million that can be spent on players who actually factor into the team’s plans moving forward. Brock Osweiler was roughly as good as Tannehill last fall, which somehow seems like an insult to both players.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Bengals

Kirkpatrick took up $9.5 million in cap space to star on one of the league’s worst passing defenses.

He’ll count a shade under $11 million in 2019. Marvin Lewis is gone, and Cincinnati’s rebuild under Zac Taylor will likely mean Kirkpatrick follows him. The Bengals have to take some big moves to wash the taste of a rotten 2018 finish from their mouths, and jettisoning their fourth-highest paid player could be the next one.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Patriots

Allen was a red zone threat with the Colts, but he’s been little more than a blocker in New England, recording only 13 catches in his two seasons with the Pats. Rob Gronkowski’s uncertain future could give Bill Belichick pause, but his team can save $7.3 million outright by letting his TE2 hit the wire. New England isn’t exactly swimming in cap space for 2019, and Allen, somehow, is the team’s seventh-highest paid player for the upcoming season.

Malik Jackson, DT, Jaguars

Jackson backslid mightily in 2018, failing to justify his $13.5 million salary in the process. The 29-year-old’s sack numbers decreased by more than half, and his sudden decline was endemic of the problems that plagued the 2017 AFC finalists through a 5-11 return to mediocrity. With Marcell Dareus staying, Jackson is the member of that D-line pairing likely to be released as the Jags attempt to figure out what went wrong.

Case Keenum, QB, Broncos

Keenum landed a two-year, $36 million contract with John Elway after his breakthrough 2017 season. Now it appears he won’t see his entire short-term deal through. The Broncos struck up a trade to acquire Joe Flacco from the Ravens, making the former Super Bowl MVP Denver’s bridge quarterback into the future. That means Keenum, even with $10 million in dead cap space tied to his contract, could be on his way out — not that John Elway is ready for him to leave:

Could be excised in a pinch

Joe Haden, CB, Steelers

Haden’s second season in Pittsburgh was better than his first. He remained a solid starting cornerback whose fourth-quarter interception of Tom Brady helped keep the Steelers’ postseason hopes alive until Week 17.

But he’s also due to make nearly $12 million in 2019 — a top-12 cap hit for a top-50 player at his position. Excising him would save $10 million, which would go a long way for a team without much wiggle room this offseason; the Steelers only have a projected $10.2 million to spend before bumping up against the cap.

There’s a chance Haden and Pittsburgh could reach common ground on a restructuring. Given the Steelers’ late-season dysfunction and the fact he’ll be 30 years old in April, a trip to free agency with a shot at one last decent-sized contract might be best for the AFC North lifer.

Justin Houston, OLB, Chiefs

Houston is still a crushing pass rusher, but the Chiefs aren’t flush with cash and will have to figure out what to do with Dee Ford this offseason. Cutting the four-time Pro Bowler would give Kansas City an extra $14 million to spend — but can it afford to shed any big-time playmakers from the defense that proved to be its Achilles’ heel in 2018?

DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
Jackson proved he’s still a legitimate deep threat in 2018, but he’s due $10 million for a rebuilding team with one of the lowest available cap totals in the NFL this year. Jettisoning the 32-year-old would help jump-start Bruce Arians’ process in Tampa, and it appears Jackson isn’t especially keen on staying. A clean break could be best for both sides.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington

Releasing Reed would leave a dead cap hit of $3.6 million, which is no small savings for a team without much wiggle room this spring. Reed is a former Pro Bowler, but injuries have limited him to just 31 games the past three seasons and he didn’t look like himself in 2018. He had just two touchdown catches while recording a career-low 64.3 percent catch rate. However, with Washington’s quarterback situation up in the air the club may value having a veteran safety valve and some continuity more than the $6 million in savings he’d create.

Vernon Davis is 35, had less of an impact than Reed, and can create $5 million in savings with his release. Washington has its choice of tight ends to get rid of if it needs to create space.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

Bortles’ playoff performance a year prior earned him a three-year, $54 million stay of execution in Jacksonville. His 2018 saw him go 3-9 as a starter while throwing only 13 touchdown passes and earn a benching in favor of Cody Kessler (!) in the process. Releasing Bortles would wipe $11 million of his $21 million cap hit from the team’s books if he’s shipped out before June, and those savings would be cut in half for any move afterward. The Jags have some time to figure out their quarterback situation — just not a ton.

Robert Quinn, DE, Dolphins
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins

Quinn underwhelmed in his first season in Florida, and new head coach Brian Flores may want to move in a different direction from the eight-year veteran. His $12.9 million salary would come off the books completely if cut before March 13. It’s been four years since he’s recorded double-digit sacks in a single season.

Parker has never had as many as 750 receiving yards in a season and has averaged only three receptions per game as a Dolphin. Maybe Flores can unlock the potential that made him the 14th overall pick in 2015, but his non-guaranteed $9.38 million salary could give Flores a little extra spending cash as he takes on a daunting rebuild in South Florida.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

McCoy’s age-30 season saw his yards-per-carry number plummet to a career-low 3.2. Was that due to the injuries he battled all season, the fact Buffalo’s passing offense was one of the league’s least threatening, or because he’s had more than 2,300 carries in his career? A $6.4 million savings isn’t a priority, but it would also allow Buffalo to walk away from the off-field issues that have marred his legacy as a player.

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Eagles
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles

Jernigan is good enough to justify his $13 million salary when healthy, but Philadelphia headed into the offseason already over the cap and still has to figure out how to handle its Nick Foles situation. The five-year veteran would be a difficult cut to make, but with $7 million in savings to be gleaned from his release, the Eagles may have no other choice.

Same goes for Agholor, who shed the “bust” label that followed him over his first two years as a pro to develop into a useful, if not prolific target for the Eagles. His $9.38 million fifth-year option for 2019 is entirely non-guaranteed, and if Philly thinks if can run with Alshon Jeffery at the top of its WR depth chart and a handful of cheaper options like a re-signed Jordan Matthews and Mack Hollins, it could send the USC product to the unemployment line.

Huh … maybe?

Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

Robinson was the centerpiece of an offensive overhaul in 2018, and his work on the field helped Mitchell Trubisky develop from overwhelmed rookie into a decent starter. However, the Bears have less than $10 million in spending space this offseason — sixth-lowest in the league. Cutting Robinson, who was good but not great in his first season at Soldier Field, would add $8 million to that total.

Andrus Peat, G, Saints

Peat was part of an offensive line that ranked fourth in the league in sacks allowed in 2018, and he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl bid for his services. But he rated out poorly in individual play, making him and his $9.6 million salary potentially expendable in New Orleans. The Saints have less than $10 million to spend this offseason, and releasing or restructuring Peat would be one way to fund a shopping spree. Restructuring Drew Brees contract and finding a way to cut down his $33.5 million cap hit is probably a more likely road to savings.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

Oakland has been shedding talent and salary in order to rebuild in Jon Gruden’s image. Cutting Carr — just two years removed from being an honest-to-god MVP candidate — would be a curious move, but so was trading a former Defensive Player of the Year in his prime. Carr is due $22.5 million next fall and would only leave $7.5 million of that on the team’s cap sheet if released. It’s probably not going to happen — Gruden has more than $69 million in space to work with this offseason already — but trying to predict anything the Raiders do at this point seems fruitless.

Releasing AJ McCarron would save $5 million and would likely be the smarter move … but the smartest move would have been not to trade for the player who got beat out by Nathan Peterman for a spot on the depth chart in the first place.

Well, never mind

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens

Baltimore belongs to Lamar Jackson now, and keeping Flacco as a $26.5 million backup would have been terribly expensive luxury. Releasing or trading him, however, would still leave $16 million of dead money. Holding on to both Jackson and Flacco would cost approximately $28.6 million — a smaller cap hit than Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, or Matthew Stafford will cost their teams next season.

In the end, the Ravens decided to trade the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, sending him off the to Broncos (though it won’t become official until the start of the new league year in March).

Cornerback Jimmy Smith, who has missed at least four games in each of the three seasons, could be a casualty as well. The 30-year-old defensive back has his team’s second-highest cap hit, and releasing him would save more than $9 million.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants

This would be a far more likely scenario if New York had any semblance of a franchise quarterback waiting in its wings. However, swings on Rhett Bomar, Ryan Nassib, and Davis Webb all failed to work out. 2018 draftee Kyle Lauletta was uninspiring in his first action as a pro, and while the club could snap up the 2019 draft’s first quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick, it may behoove coach Pat Shurmur to keep Manning around to serve as a $23.2 million mentor.

The Giants would save $17 million by releasing their longtime quarterback, a number that would almost double their available cap space for the upcoming season. Those savings drop to $12 million if he’s cut or traded after March 17, so things get a bit more expensive if they wait to see how the draft shakes out.

2018 certainly wasn’t the fresh start Shurmur had hoped for — but the Giants head coach remains committed to Manning. At the NFL Combine, he told reporters that the 38-year-old quarterback will be back in 2019.

Gerald McCoy, DT, Buccaneers

McCoy remains a strong interior defender, but at $13 million he’s be league’s sixth-highest paid tackle. His All-Pro days are behind him as he glides into his 30s, but he’s still a suffocating presence in the middle of the field who is capable of collapsing pockets from the inside out. If Tampa thinks he can thrive with some upgraded support from the edge, he could be worth that eight-figure payday. If not, the Bucs can cut him without owing him a dime.

Tampa Bay has examined its options and then came to the conclusion $13 million is a reasonable cost for McCoy’s contributions up front. He’ll remain with the team in 2019.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley was a breakout star in 2016, racking up 15.5 sacks and earning first-team All-Pro honors. In the two years since, he’s only got 10. That makes his $12.8 million cap hit potentially untenable for a Falcons team in need of some improvements.

However, Dan Quinn said that Beasley will return to Atlanta, perhaps without restructuring his deal.

Marcell Dareus, DT, Jaguars

The Jaguars entered the offseason likely to release Dareus and/or Malik Jackson. At the end of February, Dareus restructured his contract, bringing his base salary down to $2.8 million and clearing more than $5 million in cap space for the Jags. He’ll remain with the team in 2019.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

Sanders had what would have been a 1,000-yard season had he played all 16 games and appeared to have a good rapport with Case Keenum. But now the Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, and they have more than $18 million to spend as they rebuild under new head coach Vic Fangio. Releasing the soon-to-be 32-year-old and turning the reins of the receiving game over to Courtland Sutton would free up more than $10 million in cash.

But John Elway ruled it out, telling reporters at the combine that the team was exercising Sanders’ option. That made the receiver happy:

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Real Madrid vs Barcelona Preview

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Real Madrid and Barcelona starsThe footballing world will come to a standstill once again when arguably two of the biggest teams in world football collide in the biggest rivalry known to the beautiful game – it’s the El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Some would argue that this fixture has lost some of its shine, especially since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus – still, this is a game like no other. Barcelona seem to be runaway leaders for the moment, with Los Blancos down in third place – nine points adrift of their arch-rivals.

Spanish La Liga 
Real Madrid vs Barcelona     
Saturday 2 March      
Santiago Bernabeu 

To Win 
Real Madrid 31/20
Draw 11/4
Barcelona 15/10

Real Madrid

It’s been a disappointing season thus far for the European champions, with Real Madrid some way off the pace, being nine points adrift of their Clasico rivals. The league title seems unattainable at the moment, but a victory for Los Blancos would see them blow the title race wide open.

A win for the hosts here would also see Madrid end their league hoodoo over Barcelona, failing to win an El Clasico since April 2016 – a run dating back to five matches.

Madrid are a new-look team this season without Cristiano Ronaldo, with Santiago Solari opting to breed new life into the Madrid camp, giving more youngsters a chance to make their names for one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

To date, no youngster has stepped up like Brazilian wonderkid, Vinicius Junior, who seems destined to challenge for the Ballon d’Or award later in his career. The 18-year-old may lack the experience in a fixture like this, but he certainly has no fear going into what will be a tough week for Real Madrid.

We’re ready for El Clasico,” Vinicius told reporters.

“There’s two in one week and we know all football fans look forward to them.
“I can’t wait to play in it, it’s a very important match. Every player would love to be involved in a Clasico!”

Speaking on the threat that Lionel Messi poses, the Brazilian youngster also added: “Messi is always there. He’s an incredible player but we aren’t scared of anybody.
“We’re ready and have the best players in the world.”

As mentioned, Madrid haven’t won this fixture in the league since 2016, but their last victory on home soil against Barcelona came way back in 2014 – a run which the likes of Vinicius and co will be looking to end this Saturday.

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It’s all looking good for Barcelona at the moment with the Spanish champions enduring a seven-point lead over Atletico Madrid in second, while their opponents for this match sit in third spot, nine points behind.

Barca have been in decent form of late with their most recent fixture at the time of writing being their emphatic come-from-behind win over Sevilla, a game in which Leo Messi netted yet another hat-trick for the club.

That also took the Argentine magician’s goal tally to 25 in La Liga, with the European Golden Shoe in reach for the second time in a row after netting 34 goals last season.

Barca’s number 10 will also be looking to add to his record of 15 goals in 19 visits to the Bernabeu, but he isn’t the only threat that the Catalan giants possess, with the league’s second top scorer, Luis Suarez, also raring to have a go and silence some of his doubters, who have pounced at the opportunity to criticize the Uruguayan international.

Deeper in the pitch, though, Barca have somewhat struggled this season. Ivan Rakititc, Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal have failed to live up to being some of the best midfielders in the world, with Sergio Busquets and Carles Alena being the only bright sparks in the Barca midfield.

There have also been signs of shakiness from their backline, with Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique struggling to form a formidable partnership. To no surprise, their backline has had to call upon Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has impressed in recent weeks, and will certainly be tested once again – this time in a more hostile fixture at the Bernabeu.

Probable line-ups:

Real Madrid: 4-3-3

Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Bale, Benzema, Vinicius.

Barcelona: 4-3-3

Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Vidal; Messi, Suarez, Dembele.

Prediction: Real Madrid (31/20)

Despite Barcelona leading the way by some distance at the top of the table, I cannot see them opening up more of a gap over their rivals. Even in their wins, the Catalans have been far from convincing. This will also be the perfect time for Vinicius to see his name in bright lights – and there’s no bigger stage than an El Clasico. My money is on Real Madrid here!

Written by Jesse Nagel 

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Spanish La Liga: Gameweek 26 Preview

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Spanish La Liga: Gameweek 26 PreviewLionel Messi scored his 50th career hat-trick as Barcelona came from behind to beat Sevilla and go seven points clear at the top of La Liga. Alvaro Morata who has been denied twice by VAR since joining Atletico Madrid scored his first goal as they beat Villarreal 2-0. VAR was once again the talking point as Real Madrid were awarded two penalties which were slotted home by Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to see off Levante. Elsewhere, Sevilla moved out of the top four for the first time this season after a dreadful series of results. All eyes will be on the El Clasico this weekend, but we’ll be looking at every fixture taking place in round 26.

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Friday 1 March

Rayo Vallecano 31/20 
Draw 22/10 
Girona 18/10 

Rayo Vallecano and Girona will face each other in the 26th round of La Liga on Friday evening. Vallecano are struggling to keep their heads above the water as they are two points away from safety. The hosts improved their form as they managed to celebrate a five-match unbeaten run before losing four on the bounce. Girona have been inconsistent on their travels with four draws, four wins and four defeats from the 12 matches played on the road. This won’t be an easy fixture for either team but it’s a game Vallecano should target if they are serious about surviving relegation. Not an easy fixture but back the home team at 31/20.

Saturday 2 March

Espanyol 15/20 
Draw 26/10 
Real Valladolid 36/10 

Espanyol are going to face Rayo Valladolid in the 26th round of La Liga in Saturday’s early kick-off. The hosts are positioned in the middle of the table and after a decent start of the season, they looked like a team that will contest for Europa League finish. However, they haven’t been playing very well lately, recording three draws from their last four matches. Valladolid started off brightly themselves but 2019 hasn’t been good for the visitors, picking up one point in the last four matches. Tough match, so back the draw at 26/10.

Villarreal 8/10 
Draw 26/10 
Deportivo Alaves 34/10 

Villarreal return to their home ground where they smashed Sevilla 3-0 the last time they played here. The Yellow Submarine pulled out one of their best performances of the season but that was short lived as they lost their next league game away to Atletico Madrid. Alaves had a perfect opportunity of moving into the top four but played to a goalless draw at home against a struggling Celta Vigo team. Villarreal are not at a price I’d back them for as 8/10 is too short for a team that’s carrying such form. Three of their last four meetings saw both teams score while all four saw over 2.5 goals scored. Back Both Teams to Score at 17/20.

Huesca 26/10 
Draw 49/10 
Sevilla 1/1 

A struggling Huesca take on Sevilla who themselves aren’t in the best of shape. The hosts are rooted to the bottom of the table and they managed to pick up only 19 points so far in the season. Sevilla moved out of the top four for the first time this season after a dreadful series of results. The visitors have conceded seven goals in the last two league matches and the wheels are coming off. Pablo Machin’s job looks to be on the line as concerns over a top four finish are growing each game. Huesca have been fairly decent in 2019 so back the newcomers to frustrate Sevilla here. Get on Huesca on the Win/Draw Double Chance at 15/20.

Real Madrid 16/10
Draw 11/4 
Barcelona 15/10 

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Sunday 3 March 

Eibar 8/10 
Draw 26/10 
Celta Vigo 32/10 

Eibar will face Celta Vigo in the first of the Sunday fixtures. The home side is fighting for a place in the European competitions for next season, but their poor recent form saw them slipping down to the 11th place, six points behind the Europa League zone. Celta Vigo have been dismal, picking up four points from their last 10 matches. That horrendous form has seen them sit two points above the red zone. Get on Eibar at 8/10.

Real Betis 1/1 
Draw 43/20 
Getafe 3/1 

Real Betis host Getafe in one of the most interesting matches of gameweek 26, apart from the El Clasico. Only three points separate these two teams as they fight for the dream finish to compete in the UEFA Champions League next season. Both teams come into this game in high spirits after convincing wins on matchday 25. A tight affair is expected, but get on the home team to win this crucial encounter.

Real Sociedad 47/20 
Draw 21/10 
Atletico Madrid 5/4 

A real buzz is expected on Sunday evening when Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid battle each other in a mouth-watering encounter at the Anoeta. The hosts are now five points behind fourth-placed Getafe. Sociedad have enjoyed a thread of nine matches unbeaten in all competitions, while Atletico are high in confidence. After beating Serie A champions Juventus, Diego Simeone’s men backed it up with another 2-0 win against the Yellow Submarine. The hosts have won their last two home fixtures against Atleti, beating them 2-0 and 3-0 last time Simeone’s men visted the Anoeta. Back Real Sociedad to upset Atletico Madrid at a valuable 47/20.

Valencia 47/20 
Draw 47/20 
Athletic Bilbao 33/10 

Valencia continued their amazing series of draws on Saturday when their league tie against Leganes ended 1-1. Los Che now have 15 draws from 25 La Liga matches. The bad news for the locals is that these sides have drawn on their last two encounters and they would be frustrated if this match ends in yet another draw. Gaizka Garitano has obviously done a tremendous job on improving his team’s backline. Bilbao have kept three clean sheets in their last four league outings, including the draw against Barcelona and the team has conceded two from their last six. As per usual, a draw is tipped in a match involving Valencia.

Monday 4 March

Leganes 1/1 
Draw 23/10 
Levante 29/10 

Mid-table rivals Leganes and Levante take on each other in the only game of the day on Monday night at the Estadio Butarque. The hosts will be looking to make up for the points dropped in their last two matches against Real Sociedad and Valencia. These sides are both locked on 30 points after 25 league games. Levante have been blowing hot and cold, recently winning one, losing three and drawing the other from their last five matches. Leganes have lost once at home this season, 21 of their overall 30 points were collected at home. Back Leganes because of their impressive home record.

TREBLE @ 56/10
Eibar Win 8/10
Leganes Win 1/1
Villarreal vs Alaves BTTS 17/20

Written by Banele Pikwa

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German Bundesliga: Gameweek 24 Preview

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Robert Lewandowski Bayern Munich starDortmund should be feeling the heat at the summit with Bayern Munich clipping at their heels. The Borussians are three points clear of the defending champions 11 rounds to go. Round 23’s results took me by surprise but there is a good opportunity to string a top multiple this weekend. Let’s get to it. 

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Friday 1 March

Augsburg 39/10 
Draw 3/1 
Dortmund 13/20 

Gameweek 24 kicks off on Friday evening with log-leaders Dortmund travelling to Augsburg. The hosts have lost three on the spin, scoring three goals and conceding 12, and that includes a 5-1 thrashing at Freiburg last time out. Dortmund returned to winning ways following three stalemates in a row. BVB are under pressure at the top of the log, but should come away with maximum points against a struggling Augsburg side. 

Saturday 2 March

Eintracht Frankfurt 14/10 
Draw 11/4 
Hoffenheim 33/20 

Eintracht Frankfurt are unbeaten in their last six matches, including a 3-0 victory over Hannover last weekend. Hoffenheim have also been in good form and remain undefeated in their last five games so you can expect a tightly contested matchup. The last seven meetings have produced just 10 goals at an average of 1.42 per game. The Totals – Under 2.5 Goals – market offers top value at 7/4! 

Schalke 8/10 
Draw 26/10 
Dusseldorf 33/10 

Schalke are without a win in their last five matches, including a 3-0 humbling at Mainz last weekend. Dusseldorf are coming off a hard-earned 2-1 home win over Nuremburg but it’s their away form that has let them down this season. Both sides have the ability to find the back of the net and I’m expecting an opening attacking game of football. Get on the Both Teams to Score – Yes – market at 8/10. 

Bayer Leverkusen 4/10 
Draw 38/10 
Freiburg 57/10 

Bayer Leverkusen’s run of four consecutive wins came to an end last weekend with a 3-2 defeat away to Borussia Dortmund. Freiburg are off the back of a superb 5-1 victory over Augsburg and will be looking for another positive result here. A goal fest is on the cards. The hosts will be raring to get back to winning ways but their opponents will be confident after last weekend’s tremendous victory. With that being said, I’m climbing all over the Both Teams to Score – Yes – market at 13/20.

Nuremburg 47/10 
Draw 31/10 
Leipzig 11/20 

Bottom-of-the-log Nuremburg are winless in their last 14 matches with 10 defeats in all competitions. Leipzig are undefeated in their last five matches and won the corresponding fixture 6-0. The Red Bulls have also won their last three games on the road, scoring 10 goals and conceding just once. Take Leipzig to come away with all three points. 

Hertha Berlin 8/10 
Draw 26/10 
Mainz 33/10 

Hertha Berlin fought tooth and nail but ultimately failed to take any points off Bayern Munich last time out, going down 1-0 at the Allianz Arena. Mainz broke their three-game losing streak with an impressive 3-0 home win against Schalke. Recent meetings between these sides have been less exciting than hoped with just 1.37 goals being scored per game in the last eight clashes. The Totals – Under 2.5 Goals – market is tipped at 9/10. 

Monchengladbach 9/2 
Draw 36/10 
Bayern Munich 5/10 

The Bundesliga match of the weekend will see Monchengladbach play host to defending champions Bayern Munich. The Foals have been dismal on home soil of late with back-to-back defeats against Hertha Berlin (3-0) and Wolfsburg (3-0). Gladbach should at least find the back of the net on Saturday evening. Back Bayern Munich on the Matchbet & Both Teams to Score – Bayern Munich + Yes – at 15/10. 

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Sunday 3 March 

Stuttgart 7/10 
Draw 3/1 
Hannover 7/2 

Stuttgart are winless in their last 10 matches in all competitions, including seven defeats. Hannover have lost four of their last five matches, including two on the bounce. They are also yet to win a match on the road, scoring 11 goals and conceding 29 times. Just two points separate these teams and I’m expecting this one to go down to the wire. However, Stuttgart earned a good point at Werder Bremen last weekend and are tipped to build on that here with a narrow win.

Wolfsburg 12/10 
Draw 5/2 
Werder Bremen 21/10 

Wolfsburg are unbeaten in their last four matches with three wins, including a 3-0 victory away to Monchengladbach last weekend. Werder Bremen have lacked consistency and have struggled on their travels this season. Home advantage should be a big factor in Sunday’s final matchup. It’s likely to be a cracking contest with Wolfsburg tipped to edge the win. 

TREBLE @ 13/2
Schalke vs Mainz BTTS 8/10
Hertha Berlin vs Mainz Under 2.5 Goals 9/10 
Wolfsburg Win 12/10 

Written by Aaron Crowie

Short term investment plans advice

Italian Serie A: Gameweek 26 Preview

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Paulo Dybala Juventus star A return of seven predictions from nine fixtures was definitely what the doctor ordered and if you followed my tips last weekend, you should be all smiles! Let me not get ahead of myself, but looking at round 26, I am feeling confident I can continue with my hot streak. Let’s find out what’s good on the betting front. 

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Friday 1 March 

Cagliari 34/10 
Draw 5/2 
Inter Milan 8/10 

Cagliari have been dismal in recent weeks with four losses from their last five matches and that doesn’t look likely to improve here. Inter Milan have been fairly decent on their travels and will be looking to bag maximum points. The Nerazzurri have won the last four meetings between the sides, scoring 14 goals and conceding just once. The away win is tipped. 

Saturday 2 March

Empoli 1/1 
Draw 51/20 
Parma 51/20 

Empoli were slaughtered 3-0 at the hands of AC Milan last time out but return to their home base this weekend. Parma have been dreadful in recent weeks, suffering three consecutive losses, scoring just once and conceding seven times in the process. The last three meetings at the Stadio Carlo Castellani have produced 13 goals at an average of 4.3 per game. With both teams bleeding goals and both eager to get back to winning ways, the Over 2.5 Goals market looks a good bet at 15/20. 

AC Milan 5/10
Draw 33/10 
Sassuolo 11/2 

AC Milan have been in top form with three straight wins, finding the back of the net nine times and shipping just one goal. Sassuolo are without a win in their last four games and have travelled poorly with just three wins from 12 matches. The hosts have grown from strength-to-strength and that form doesn’t look likely to fade away just yet. Back AC Milan to bag all three points. 

Lazio 31/20 
Draw 51/20 
Roma 16/10

Following back-to-back victories, Lazio fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Genoa last time out. This week they take on city rivals Roma, who seem to be finding some form with three wins in a row. Although form really does go out the window in derby games such as these, I simply can’t overlook the fact that the Giallorossi have just been that much better. They won the reverse tie 3-1 and are tipped on the Double Chance and Both Teams to Score – DrawAway/Yes – market at 23/20. 

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Sunday 3 March

Torino 4/10 
Draw 7/2 
Chievo 15/2 

Sunday’s action kicks off at lunch time with Torino playing host to relegation-bound Chievo. The Maroons are unbeaten in their last five matches, including three consecutive home wins. The basement-dwellers are winless on the road, scoring eight goals and conceding three times that amount (24). Torino are unbeaten against Chievo in the last five meetings and look very much likely to build on that. As much as the home win looks a banker bet, the hosts are not a team that score goals upon goals. And with that being said, the Both Halves Under 1.5 Goals – Yes – market offers decent value at 5/4. 

Udinese 14/10 
Draw 2/1 
Bologna 22/10 

Udinese ended a winless run of four matches with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over bottom-of-the-log Chievo last weekend. Bologna have lost back-to-back matches but those defeats came at the hands of Roma (2-1) and Juventus (0-1). The Greyhounds showed grit and determination and if they apply that to this game, they will very well be in with a shout. Take Bologna on the Win/Draw Double Chance at 5/10.

Genoa 6/10 
Draw 11/4 
Frosinone 9/2 

Genoa are undefeated in their last five matches and welcome relegation-threatened Frosinone to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday afternoon. The visitors have lost five of their last seven games, including two defeats on the bounce. It won’t be cut and dry but Genoa should capitalize on home advantage. At 6/10, the hosts are tipped to come out on top. 

SPAL 16/10 
Draw 43/20 
Sampdoria 18/10 

SPAL are winless in their last four games, including a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo last time out. Sampdoria returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Cagliari following a run of three consecutive losses, scoring once and conceding six times. It seems as though home advantage has been the difference in recent meetings but despite that, I’m going a different route. The Both Teams to Score – Yes – market is tipped at 17/20. 

Atalanta 19/20 
Draw 26/10 
Fiorentina 26/10 

Atalanta have been poor of late with back-to-back defeats, scoring once and conceding five times. Fiorentina are unbeaten in their last seven matches and will be looking to maintain that form on Sunday evening. I’m expecting a cagey affair and most likely a very defensive approach from both sides. The Totals – Under 2.5 Goals – is tipped at 11/10. 

Napoli 31/20 
Draw 22/10 
Juventus 37/20 

Last but not least, second-placed Napoli will play host to runaway-leaders Juventus on Sunday evening. Should the defending champions secure maximum points, it would leave the Azzurri 16 points adrift of the table-toppers. There should be a few goals scored here but I’m not expecting a goal fest. The Totals (Aggregated) – 2-3 goals – market is well worth a punt at 9/10. 

WON @ 5/1
Roma HT-FT Win 21/20
Juventus Win 5/10
Fiorentina vs Inter Milan Over 2.5 Goals 19/20 

Inter Milan Win 8/10
AC Milan Win 5/10
Roma Win/Draw & BTTS 23/20

Written by Aaron Crowie

Short term investment plans advice

South African NFD: Gameweek 22 Preview

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South African NFD: Gameweek 10 Preview  
Stellenbosch look like champions in waiting after opening up an eight-point gap at the summit of the NFD standings. This week they host relegation-threatened Witbank Spurs at Idas Valley. Will this be a one-sided encounter? Meanwhile, Royal Eagles and Ajax will be looking to return to winning ways and climb back into the top three as they face Real Kings and TS Galaxy respectively. Here’s our full NFD preview:

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Friday 1 March

Stellenbosch 7/20 
Draw 33/10 
Witbank Spurs 7/1 

Stellenbosch have only suffered three defeats all season and they sit atop the NFD standings, eight points clear of second-placed Mbombela United. Steve Barker’s men beat TS Sporting 2-0 last week to register their 13th win in 21 games. Witbank Spurs are one spot above the relegation zone and failure to collect maximum points could drag them into a dangerous position. Shakes Mashaba’s boys have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five league games. Stellies are too strong for everyone, back them to win at Idas Valley.

Ubuntu Cape Town 14/10 
Draw 2/1 
Maccabi 18/10 

Ubuntu Cape Town have jointly with Witbank Spurs lost the most games in the league so far this season with 11 defeats to their name. They are currently in the relegation zone and it’s not looking good for them. Maccabi are winless in five league games which has seen them slide down to 11th on the log. Former Chippa United coach, Joel Masutha is really finding the going tough in the second tire of South African football. I foresee a dull stalemate here.

Saturday 2 March

Cape Umoya United 13/10 
Draw 2/1 
Jomo Cosmos 2/1 

This could be a defining period for both teams as they’re tied on 23 points. The winner would all of a sudden be four points off the magical 30-point mark which puts you in a good position to survive relegation. Dominic Isaac’s Cape Umoya United have collected six out of a possible 15 points in the last five games while Ezenkosi have collected only three over the same period. Jomo Sono’s team has lost four of those encounters. I’m leaning towards a Cape Umoya win.

TS Sporting 14/10 
Draw 2/1 
Uthongathi 18/10 

TS Sporting understandably lost 2-0 at table-topping Stellenbosch and they seek redemption against an Uthongathi side that is unbeaten in four games with two draws and two wins. They showed mental strength in the KZN derby against Royal Eagles last week when they came back from a goal down to win 2-1. The momentum is with the visitors and I’m backing them.

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Sunday 3 March 

Ajax Cape Town 1/1 
Draw 21/10 
TS Galaxy 5/2 

Ajax shockingly lost 3-0 to University of Pretoria last week which saw them drop to fourth on the log. Returning to the top three as soon as possible will be in their minds when they host Dan “Dance” Malesela’s TS Galaxy who head into this one off the back of two consecutive wins. Orlando Pirates loanee, Zakes Lepasa’s solitary goal saw them edge Jomo Cosmos 1-0 on their own turf. This smells like a draw.

Richards Bay 13/10 
Draw 2/1 
Mbombela United 2/1 

Richards Bay have had a good recent record as they are unbeaten in the last five league games with two draws and three wins. On the other hand, Kingston Nkhatha opened his scoring account for Mbombela United in their 1-0 victory over struggling Ubuntu Cape Town which propelled them to second place on the table. This is a crucial game and my reason to tip Richards Bay is home ground advantage.

Royal Eagles 5/10 
Draw 5/2 
Real Kings 11/2 

This is a KZN derby between two teams with contrasting fortunes. The hosts are currently placed third and they will be looking to return to winning ways and cement their place with the likes of Ajax Cape Town, Uthongathi and Richards Bay breathing down their necks. Meanwhile, Real Kings are rooted to the foot of the NFD after going six games without a win. The KZN side knows that a victory is essential to stand any chance of surviving relegation. My money is on the third-placed team.

Tshakhuma 13/10 
Draw 2/1 
University of Pretoria 2/1 

It shall be interesting to see how Tshakhuma who are winless in five league games cope with a highly-motivated University of Pretoria team that has just beaten Ajax Cape Town 3-0. That was AmaTuks’ third win in five games! The momentum is with the visitors and I’m backing them.

TREBLE @ 5/1
Stellenbosch Win 7/20
Royal Eagles Win 5/10
University of Pretoria Win 2/1

Written by Benedict Ngwenya

Short term investment plans advice

China is catching up to the US on artificial intelligence research

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The U.S. may be ahead for now, but not by much. onime/

Researchers, companies and countries around the world are racing to explore – and exploit – the possibilities of artificial intelligence technology. China is working on an extremely aggressive multi-billion-dollar plan for government investment into AI research and applications. The U.S. government has been slower to act.

The Obama administration issued a report on AI near the end of its term. Since then, little has happened – until a Feb. 11 executive order from President Donald Trump encouraging the country to do more with AI.

The executive order has several parts, including directing federal agencies to invest in AI and train workers “in AI-relevant skills,” making federal data and computing resources available to AI researchers and telling the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create standards for AI systems that are reliable and work well together. These are all good ideas, but they lack funding and bureaucratic structure. So after researching how large organizations use AI for the past five years, in my view the executive order alone is not likely to transform the American approach to AI.

Government spending

China is doing far more than talking about AI. In 2017, the country’s national government announced it wanted to make the country and its industries world leaders in AI technologies by 2030. The government’s latest venture capital fund is expected to invest more than US$30 billion in AI and related technologies within state-owned firms, and that fund joins even larger state-funded VC funds.

One Chinese state alone has said it will devote $5 billion to developing AI technologies and businesses. The city of Beijing has committed $2 billion to developing an AI-focused industrial park. A major port, Tianjin, plans to invest $16 billion in its local AI industry.

These government programs will support ambitious major projects, startups and academic research in AI. The national effort also includes using AI in China’s defense and intelligence industries; the country’s leaders are not reluctant to use AI for social and political control. For example, both AI-driven facial recognition, even to catch jaywalkers, and “social credit” – an AI-driven credit score that factors in social behaviors – are already in use.

U.S. investment plans, mostly in the defense industry, are dwarfed by the Chinese effort. DARPA, the Defense Department’s research arm, has sponsored AI research and competitions for many years, and has a $2 billion fund called “AI Next” to help develop the next wave of AI technologies in universities and companies. It’s not yet clear how much real progress its efforts have made.

Private sector contributions

The U.S. has a strong private sector effort in this technology. There are, for instance, many more AI firms in the U.S. than in China.

American investment appears strong, too. In 2015, for example, the combined research and development spending at the U.S.-headquartered companies Google, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon was $54 billion. Much of that spending went toward AI research, but some of the work actually happened in China and elsewhere outside the U.S. That work has been used to personalize ads, improve search results, recognize and label faces and generally make products smarter.

In China, the private sector is much more closely tied to government plans than in the U.S. The Chinese government has asked four large AI-oriented firms in China – Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba and iFlytek – to develop AI hardware and software systems to handle autonomous driving and language processing, so other companies could build on those skills.

China may have also surpassed the American historic advantage in venture capital investments. In 2018, U.S. AI startups received $9.3 billion in venture funding – a record amount, but the number of deals was down from 2017. However, one report from China suggests that in the first half of 2018, Chinese venture investments – many of which involved AI – were higher than in the U.S. Data from 2017 suggest that Chinese AI firms received more venture funding than U.S. companies, although the American funding went to many more firms.

Beyond investment money

There are other factors than investment that determine a country’s long-term competitiveness on AI. Talent is an important one. The U.S. had an historical edge in this regard, with strong technical universities, many technology sector employers and relatively open immigration policies.

A recent analysis of LinkedIn data suggests that the U.S. has far more AI engineers than China does. But China is closing the gap rapidly, with a variety of education and training programs beginning as early as elementary school. The Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration are encouraging some of the world’s best AI researchers to stay home, rather than come to the U.S.

Another element in long-term AI success is how particular regions build mutually reinforcing communities of companies, university ecosystems and government agencies. Silicon Valley is the world leader in this regard, and China doesn’t have anything to match it yet. Both the U.S. and China could learn from efforts in Canada, such as the work by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, which has offered companies access to facilities, venture capital and university research partnerships to accelerate AI development in that city.

A final key element in AI progress is data: The more data a country’s companies have, the better able they are to develop capable AI systems. Chinese online firms have massive amounts of consumer data on which to train machine learning algorithms. Because of its very large number of inhabitants, the population’s heavy use of digital services and its lax regulatory environment, China clearly beats the U.S. on data.

I still think the U.S. has the edge over China in AI capabilities at the moment. However, as much as I would like the U.S. to win this race over the long run, if I were a betting man I would bet on China. As I describe in my new book “The AI Advantage,” China is executing its strategy for AI, and the U.S. is still wrestling to create one. China is also reaping the benefits of having a determined government, an inexhaustible pot of money, a growing cadre of smart researchers and a large, digital-hungry population.

Perhaps if the leadership of the U.S. government devoted as much attention and investment to AI as it does to its other strong priorities, the U.S. could maintain its lead in the field. That seems unlikely over the next couple of years, however.

Thomas H. Davenport is the author of:

The AI Advantage: How to Put the Artificial Intelligence Revolution to Work

MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The Conversation

MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Short term investment plans advice

Cultured meat seems gross? It’s much better than animal agriculture

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World’s first lab-grown beef burger. Would you eat it? David Parry / PA Wire, CC BY-ND

The world is in the grips of a food-tech revolution. One of the most compelling new developments is cultured meat, also known as clean, cell-based or slaughter-free meat. It’s grown from stem cells taken from a live animal without the need for slaughter.

Proponents hail cultured meat as the long-awaited solution to the factory farming problem. If commercialized successfully, it could solve many of the environmental, animal welfare and public health issues of animal agriculture while giving consumers exactly what they’re used to eating.

Despite this, the public is uncertain about cultured meat. Scientists and high-profile supporters, including investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, are pushing for broader adoption, but it’s difficult to sell the public on new food technology – case in point, genetically modified food.

As a moral psychologist, my research explores people’s perceptions of cultured meat, both the good and the bad. Below I discuss some of the top reasons people say they don’t want to eat cultured meat, compiled from opinion surveys, focus groups and online comments. But I’m optimistic that champions of this new technology can alleviate the public’s concerns, making a convincing case for consumers to embrace cultured meat.

‘Cultured meat is not necessary’

While there is increasing awareness of the downsides of factory farming, this knowledge has still not spread to all meat consumers, or at least is not reflected in their purchasing behavior. Factory farming supports what many consider cruel and restrictive practices where animals raised in such farms are subjected to extreme suffering, and estimates suggest that over 99 percent of U.S. farmed animals live on factory farms.

Animal agriculture is also inefficient. Growing and feeding an entire animal for only part of its body is inevitably less efficient than growing just the parts that you want to eat.

Factory farming degrades the environment and contaminates local land and water, in addition to emitting around 14.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

The use of antibiotics in farming leads to antibiotic resistance, which could have devastating consequences for human health globally. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that over 70 percent of medically important drugs were sold for use in animal agriculture.

Some people who believe farmed meat is problematic would prefer a plant-based food system. Despite recent hype around veganism, the number of people who don’t eat animal products remains extremely low. Only 2 to 6 percent of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan. And only around 1 percent of adults identify as vegetarian and report never eating meat. This figure shows little change since the mid-1990s, despite the ongoing activism of the animal rights and environmental movements.

I’d argue that the plant-based solution to factory farming is not a feasible outcome for the foreseeable future. Cultured meat might be. Individuals can still choose to eat a plant-based diet. But for those who are unwilling to give up meat, they can have their steak and eat it too.

Farm animals won’t be turned loose to fend for themselves.
AP Photo/Maciej Zych

‘I’m worried about the animals and farmers’

Some people express concern about the fate of chickens and cows, imagining them abandoned to die or released into the wild.

The time frame for cultured meat renders this consideration moot. Even by optimistic estimates, large-scale production is likely still several years away. As new processes are adopted, the demand for farm animals will slowly decrease. Fewer animals will be bred, thus the animals at the center of these concerns will never exist.

Many people are also concerned about the negative impact a transition to cultured meat may have on farmers. But this new technology is far from the only threat farmers already face as the industry becomes ever more centralized. Eighty-five percent of beef in the U.S. comes from just four main producers.

In fact, cultured meat provides a new industry, with opportunities to grow and process products for use in cellular agriculture. The meat industry can learn a lesson from how taxis lost out to Uber and Lyft; they must adapt to new technologies to survive and thrive. And the industry is already taking steps in this direction – Tyson Foods and Cargill Meat Solutions, two of the biggest meat producers in the U.S., have made investments in this new future.

Cultural norms have a lot to do with whether dog, pig or cultured meat is a delicacy or disgusting.
AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

‘Cultured meat is disgusting’

Disgust is a common reaction to cultured meat. It’s difficult to rebut, as it is not an argument per se – disgust is in the eye of the beholder.

However, disgust is often not a good guide for rational decision-making. Cultural differences in meat consumption illustrate this point. Typically, Westerners are happy to eat pigs and cows, but consider eating dogs disgusting. But dog meat is consumed in some Asian cultures.

So what is disgusting appears to be somewhat determined by what is normal and accepted in your community. With time, and exposure to cultured meat, it’s possible that these feelings of disgust will disappear.

‘Cultured meat is unnatural’

Perhaps the loudest opposition to cultured meat is that it’s unnatural. This argument relies on the premise that natural things are better than unnatural things.

While this outlook is reflected in recent consumer preferences, the argument is fallacious. Some natural things are good. However, there are many things that are unnatural that are fundamental to our society: glasses, motorized transport, the internet. Why single out cultured meat?

A preference for natural foods might be a proxy for things that do matter.

Perhaps the argument is only applicable to food – natural food is better. But “natural” food is a myth; almost all the food you buy is modified in some way. Moreover, I’d argue the overuse of antibiotics in conventional meat and other practices of modern animal agriculture – including the selective breeding used to produce modern farmed animals – throws it into the same unnatural category.

Of course, naturalness can be a proxy for things that really do matter in food: safety, sustainability, animal welfare. But cultured meat fares far better than conventional meat on those metrics. If we dismiss cultured meat on the grounds of being unnatural then, to be consistent, we must also dismiss a vast number of other products that make modern lives better and easier.

It’s early days, but a number of companies are working to bring cultured meat to the table. As consumers, we have both the right and obligation to be informed about which products we choose to eat. Yes, we should be cautious with any new technology. But in my opinion, the objections to cultured meat can’t hold a candle to the potential benefits for humans, animals and the planet.

The Conversation

Matti Wilks does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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