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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The early consensus on President Trump's executive order requiring agencies to repeal at least two regulations for every new one proposed: It's a good idea, but probably messy to execute.

"It won't possibly make things easier for the department, and I'm not sure that anybody outside the agency will be able to see a difference" except for slower implementation of new health care policies, said Kathleen Sebelius, the former Health and Human Services secretary under President Barack Obama.

Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, said that if the order is a statement of intent saying the regulatory burden needs to be reduced, he's all for it. But if it leads to a lot of consumer safety regulations being cut, that could be a problem.

Here's how Slavitt looks at it:

  • There's "sort of a natural buildup of regs. Having some sort of general guidance saying we're not going to increase burden is a good general direction."
  • A lot of regulations are required by Congress. And a lot are safety-related, like those around fire coding, earthquake coding, needle dispensing and opioid use.
  • A warning about the swamp: "This is a field day for lobbyists who will use it as an opportunity to take things that they don't like doing because it costs them money but are genuinely important – like regulations from a consumer protection standpoint….and work against these regulations in a way that becomes more challenging."

Dan Mendelson, a former Office of Management and Budget official under Obama, said there probably aren't a lot of regulations to choose from when deciding what to repeal. "In health care, most of the regulations ... are payment and other regulations necessary for the base operation of the entitlement programs. So it's hard to see how any of these could be rescinded," he said.

And Bill Pierce, a former Health and Human Services official under President Bush: "This to me seems to a great political communication in that he's fulfilling a campaign pledge he made. It seems that it's likely this could cause, just like the immigration executive order, a huge amount of confusion across the board. I don't know how it gets implemented."

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 10 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.