CEO Satya Nadella (AP/Rafiq Maqbool

The contest for more sophisticated artificial intelligence systems has hotted up with an announcement of a big new lab — Microsoft Research AI, in which the software behemoth will employ more than 100 scientists to study how a single system of AI can tackle a wide range of jobs, rather than a single task, per Bloomberg. The new lab will partner with MIT, Microsoft said.

One of the new lab's initiatives is called AI for Earth, which will offer tools to environmentalists working on problems including climate and water shortages, Wired reports. As we've reported, Microsoft already was using its software to track pollution in places like Chesapeake Bay.

Why it matters: Microsoft is stepping up an already-fiercely competitive race toward smarter machines against Alphabet and Elon Musk's OpenAI.

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Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandate: "Be a patriot"

Joe Biden called on governors to issue a three-month mandatory outdoor mask mandate on Thursday, telling reporters after receiving a coronavirus briefing that experts say it could save over 40,000 lives.

Why it matters: Biden was more aggressive and specific than he has been in previous calls to wear a mask, arguing that it will allow children to return to school sooner, businesses to reopen and help "get our country back on track."

McConnell announces Senate will adjourn until Sept. 8

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday that the Senate will not hold any more votes until Sept. 8, though members will remain on 24-hour notice in case a coronavirus stimulus deal is reached.

Why it matters: With millions of Americans unemployed, the Trump administration and Democrats remain hopelessly deadlocked and unlikely to reach a deal any time soon.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump vows to block stimulus funding for mail-in voting and USPS

President Trump on Thursday told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that Democratic demands to fund mail-in voting and the U.S. Postal Service in ongoing coronavirus stimulus negotiations were a non-starter.

Why it matters: Trump directly linked Democrats' desired $3.6 billion for mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS to his continued baseless claims that increased mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud.