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5 things to know for May 23: Weather, Washington, Botswana, Philippines & Canada, AI

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Severe storms and flash floods continue to slam the Central US while the Southeast braces for a Memorial Day weekend heat wave. Pedram Javaheri has the details.

Posted: May 23, 2019 9:10 AM
Updated: May 23, 2019 9:10 AM

New York to London in 90 minutes or less? An Atlanta-based aerospace company is trying to develop a plane that will make that possible.

Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get "5 Things You Need to Know Today" delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Weather

A tornado overnight slammed Jefferson City, Missouri, causing widespread damage and wreaking havoc in the state's capital city. It's one of 171 tornadoes reported since Friday across the central US. The twister in Jefferson City sent debris 13,000 feet into the air and even blew a house underneath a tractor-trailer. No deaths have been reported so far, but that's sadly not the case in Golden City, Missouri, where three people were killed when a tornado rolled through earlier in the day. The deadly spring storm system has also brought flooding to Oklahoma and severe weather to Iowa. Tornadoes could pose threats today from Lubbock, Texas, to Kansas City and from Columbus, Ohio, to Philadelphia, and serious flooding along the already-swollen Mississippi River is expected in the central US as more rain falls in coming days.

2. Washington

Well, so much for Infrastructure Week. A meeting at the White House about fixing crumbling US bridges, roads and pipes -- the one issue Democrats and the President seemed to be on the same page on -- was pretty much blown up minutes after it started. And, of course, there's finger-pointing about who is at fault. Trump blames House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had earlier said the President "is engaged in a cover-up." Pelosi blames Trump, who after cutting short the infrastructure meeting held a hastily-called news conference in the Rose Garden and declared nothing would get done in Washington until Dems drop all their investigations. CNN's Stephen Collinson said Trump's walkout marks a point of no return.

3. Botswana

Botswana has dropped its ban on elephant hunting. The southern African nation is home to 130,000 elephants. That's about a third of all elephants on the continent. The ban was put in place five years ago to deter poaching, but local residents complained that elephants have been damaging crops, killing livestock and destroying water supplies. Conservationists have warned that the African elephant could become extinct if it's not protected. Meanwhile, in the neighboring country of Zimbabwe, a ban on hunting buffaloes with bows and arrows has been lifted in a bid to boost tourism and revenue.

4. Canada and the Philippines 

Looks like the trash tiff between the Philippines and Canada is over. The Canadians agreed to take back 2,450 tons of trash that were shipped to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. The containers were marked as recyclable plastics, but they really contained other kinds of waste, like newspapers and diapers. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was so upset about it, he recalled his country's ambassador to Canada. Now, Canada says it will haul the garbage back across the Pacific and pay the full cost of the operation.

5. Artificial intelligence assistants

Do AI assistants like Alexa and Siri perpetuate gender stereotypes? The United Nations thinks so. The assistants enable the notion that "women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command," says a report by UNESCO, the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The report also notes that the assistants -- which are all voiced by women as a default setting -- give passive and polite responses when users make sexually abusive remarks. UNESCO says this problem can be fixed by not making digital assistant voices female by default and programming them to discourage abusive or sexist language.

TODAY'S NUMBERS

$300,000

That's how much attorney Michael Avenatti is accused of stealing from ex-client Stormy Daniels. A federal grand jury in New York indicted the celebrity lawyer for that and for allegedly trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike. Avenatti told CNN he will be "fully exonerated."

5.2

The percentage of new cancer cases in the US in 2015 that were linked to a poor diet, a new study says

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Mission to Mars

You may never make it to Mars, but your name -- etched on NASA's latest rover -- just might.

The robots are coming

Thanks to Ford, robots can now deliver packages straight to your front door.

Mission accomplished

Meet the nurse who graduated from NYU years after he worked there as a janitor.

Fender bender

You can stay in a big hotel, or you can stay in a big hotel shaped exactly like a guitar.

'If you don't know, now you know ...'

A Brooklyn street will be renamed for the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. on what would have been his 47th birthday.

HAPPENING LATER

Getting out

John Walker Lindh, known as the "American Taliban," is set to be released today from a federal prison in Indiana. He was the first US-born detainee in the war on terror and has served 17 years of a 20-year sentence.

TODAY'S QUOTE

"I am getting fed up ..."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, perhaps speaking for all of us, as he describes his feelings about Brexit delays

AND FINALLY

Venomous vittles

Cooking with poison? The residents of a remote island in Japan have been doing that for years. (Click to view.)

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