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AP file photo

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price testified this morning at the Senate Finance Committee about the Trump administration's budget proposal, but he's also got questions about the administration's actions on the Affordable Care Act. And Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch was grilled by Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill about the lack of hearings on the Senate GOP health care bill.

The highlights:

On the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies:

  • Price didn't answer a question from Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow about why the administration won't commit to paying for the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies.
  • Noted to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson that the budget "accommodates and reflects (subsidy) payments through 2018," but said he couldn't say whether they'd actually be paid because of the ongoing lawsuit.
  • "Nobody is interested in sabotaging the system ... What we're trying to do is fix the challenge that we have."
  • Stabenow: "To me it's like pulling the rug out from someone and then saying, 'Oh my gosh, they fell down.'"

On the ACA"s contraception mandate:

  • Wouldn't answer questions about a proposed rule that reportedly would let any employer ask for an exemption to the ACA's requirement to cover birth control.
  • Said "women who desire to have access to birth control ought to have access to birth control" — but wouldn't say it had to be covered by an employer.

The GOP health care bill:

  • McCaskill to Hatch, on the lack of hearings on the Senate GOP bill that's being written: "There's a group of guys in a back room somewhere that are making decisions ... You couldn't have a more partisan exercise than we're having right now."
  • Harch: " I don't know that there's going to be another hearing, but we've invited you to participate."
  • Price to Republican Sen. Dean Heller, on whether he'd support a Medicaid spending growth rate that's lower than the House bill: "In isolation, I think that might be a challenge."

On Medicaid:

  • Price said Medicaid's problems, including poor health outcomes and doctors not accepting Medicaid patients, suggest a need tor "structural reforms."
  • Said he stood by his statements that Medicaid won't be cut, because overall spending will continue to increase.

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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.

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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.

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Updated 10 hours ago - Technology

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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.