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Weekend Reads 12/26/20

Congress scrambles to avert shutdown after Trump’s stimulus demands

The uncertainty surrounding the package is the latest chapter of chaos in the Trump presidency, which has seen multiple shutdowns and deals scuttled at the last minute. The president’s eleventh-hour demands took lawmakers and senior aides by surprise, particularly since Trump left nearly all of the negotiations to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made no push for the $2,000 stimulus checks that the president is now seeking.

What California’s farmworkers can teach us during a season of giving

2020 was a year filled with strife, loss, and pain for many Americans, but especially for farmworkers across California. A study examining conditions among California farmworkers during the pandemic, published by the California Institute for Rural Studies this summer, found that these workers have not only lost work and wages, but they also lack access to health care and public assistance programs. Some farmworkers lost 40 percent of their work from April to June, that study found.

The Military Would Not Participate in a Coup. Trump Can’t Understand Why.

Senior Defense Department leaders have already expressed that there is no role for the military in domestic political disputes. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as much in October—and repeated the point last week: “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or a religion. We take an oath to the Constitution.”

Google develops an AI that can learn both chess and Pac-Man

That twist is called "model-based reinforcement learning." In a system that uses this approach, the software uses what it can see of a game to build an internal model of the game state. Critically, that state isn't prestructured based on any understanding of the game—the AI is able to have a lot of flexibility regarding what information is or is not included in it. The reinforcement learning part of things refers to the training process, which allows the AI to learn how to recognize when the model it's using is both accurate and contains the information it needs to make decisions.

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