April 25, 2017

The U.S. and its NATO allies have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan since soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, though the mission officially changed to training the Afghan army and police a few years ago. On Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to assess the situation as President Trump decides whether to send more troops to help quash a resurgent Taliban. Mattis and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, strongly suggested that Russia is behind a flood of arms to the Taliban.

The U.S. will have to "confront Russia" over "denying the sovereignty of other countries," including Afghanistan, Mattis said at a news conference in Kabul on Monday. "For example, any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law." When asked if he wanted to refute reports that Russia is arming the Taliban, Nicholson said, "Oh no, I'm not refuting that," adding that the U.S. has continued to receive such reports of Russian assistance to the Islamist insurgents.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the U.S. covertly supplied arms to the Afghan mujahideen resistance, which eventually caused enough loss of Russian blood and treasure that Soviet Russia pulled out in 1988. The loss in Afghanistan has been credited as a significant cause of the Soviet Union's fall in 1991. Peter Weber

10:05 p.m.

President Biden has chosen Rick Spinrad, a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University, as his pick to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Spinrad has spent more than three decades as an ocean scientist, serving as NOAA's chief scientist during the Obama administration and in leadership positions at the U.S. Office of Naval Research and Oceanographer of the Navy.

The NOAA houses the National Weather Service and is responsible for most of the country's climate science research. The White House has requested from Congress $6.9 billion to fund NOAA, with much of it going to pay for climate science research, Axios reports. Catherine Garcia

9:08 p.m.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sees climate change as "a defining challenge for our generation and a crisis multiplier," and wants the alliance to play a key role in understanding the best way to fight it, while also adapting operations and reducing military emissions.

In an article for Politico Europe, Stoltenberg wrote that climate change is "making the world a more dangerous place." Rising sea levels and extreme weather are "devastating communities, increasing competition for scarce resources, and fueling tensions and conflict," he added. "That's why it's so crucial that NATO sets the gold standard on climate change and security, and then takes action to address it. Climate change threatens global security, so NATO must be part of the response."

On Thursday, Stoltenberg attended the U.S. Leaders Summit on climate change at the invitation of President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. NATO allies agreed to an "ambitious agenda on climate and security" in February, and Stoltenberg said he expects NATO leaders to approve an action plan at a summit later this year.

The plan would task NATO with using its "unique capacities and expertise to monitor and track climate change," Stoltenberg said, investing in more research and sharing data. NATO soldiers and equipment are facing extreme heat and cold, with critical infrastructure also exposed — the U.S. Department of Defense has found climate change threatens the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, which also houses NATO commands.

There will be an assessment of the impact of climate change on NATO assets and installations, Stoltenberg said, and training and exercises will be adapted. NATO will also decrease its dependence on fossil fuels and prioritize sustainable technologies. "Climate change is a generational challenge that requires a global solution, and NATO is a powerful platform for Europe and North America to tackle shared security challenges together," Stoltenberg said. Catherine Garcia

7:21 p.m.

In order to tackle climate change, it has to be "at the center of a country's national security and foreign policy," Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told world leaders during a virtual global climate summit on Thursday.

Haines said the United States is taking this approach moving forward, adding that climate change "needs to be fully integrated with every aspect of our analysis in order to allow us not only to monitor the threat but also, critically, to ensure that policymakers understand the importance of climate change on seemingly unrelated policies."

On Thursday, the CIA said it is adding a new environmental category to its World Factbook, which will provide data on climate, pollution, infectious diseases, and food security for different countries. The intelligence community's most recent worldwide threat assessment said that the extreme weather caused by climate change will likely force people to leave areas as they become inhabitable, and this could lead to a possible surge in migration and instability. All of this would "exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises," the report states. Catherine Garcia

5:51 p.m.

Scientists have finally answered the question on all of our minds — or at least a question that was apparently on someone's mind.

After painstaking measurements, calculations, and maybe even a few taste tests, researchers have estimated the number of bubbles produced by a half-pint of "gently poured" lager to be somewhere between 200,000 and two million, ScienceDaily reports.

Not just a side effect of the fermentation process, beer bubbles are actually "important sensory elements of beer tasting" because they "transport flavor and scent compounds," writes the American Chemical Society. But why count them? The better question is why not, according to lead researcher Gerard Liger-Belair, who previously unearthed the number of bubbles in a glass of champagne (spoiler: it's about a million).

Using high-speed photography, intricate carbon dioxide measurements and expert calculations, Liger-Belair and his team were able to track bubble formation from the minute a lager was poured to the second it went flat, reports CNET. But because different beers and different glasses can greatly influence that all-important bubble count, researchers left a pretty wide range in their estimate.

Next, perhaps Liger-Belair's team can tackle a more contentious question: how many bubbles are in regular Sprite compared to McDonald's Sprite? Brigid Kennedy

5:20 p.m.

It sounds like a recent attempt by Andrew Yang to secure an endorsement in his New York City mayoral bid didn't exactly go as planned.

The candidate on Wednesday met with the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City to seek the Democratic LGBTQ organization's endorsement, but he ended up offending its members, The New York Times reports. Yang, according to the report, "cited gay members of his staff as apparent evidence of his openness to the club's concerns, and expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of visiting" the New York gay bar Cubbyhole.

But Yang neglected to focus on "substantive issues that our membership cares about" and "came off poorly," the club's president, Rose Christ, told the Times. One member, Harris Doran, took issue with the fact that Yang "kept calling us 'your community,' like we were aliens," while the Times also cites an online chat that accompanied the forum in which one person wrote, "Gay, gay, gay. Wow. More to us than just that."

Christ also told Politico that Yang "came across like he was a tourist in New York," and member Alejandra Caraballo drew a particularly brutal TV comparison.

"When I see a candidate come in just with Michael Scott levels of cringe and insensitivity, it either tells me Andrew Yang is in over his head or is not listening to his staff," Caraballo told the Times. "Those are both radioactive flashing signs that say he is not prepared to be mayor of New York."

Yang campaign manager Sasha Neha Ahuja told the Times that "I hope Andrew continues to have space for folks to listen with an open heart about the experiences of all communities that have been deeply impacted by years of oppression," while adding that "I apologize if folks felt some type of way about it." Brendan Morrow

5:07 p.m.

Cher has noticed Christopher Meloni too … but not in that way!

Appearing on The Late Late Show on Wednesday night, the singer insisted that her recent tweet about the Law & Order star — which read "CHRISTOPHER MELONI / IS EXCELLENT, / CHARISMATIC ACTOR" — wasn't thirsty and was strictly about his acting, you pervs. "I'd seen his new show, and I do, I like that show," she told James Corden, as reported by Vulture. "I think that it's an excellent show. And underrated. And the acting is really good."

But does she like more than just Meloni's a…cting? "Just because someone is an excellent actor doesn't mean you wanna jump on their bones and roll 'em around in the carpet," Cher scolded. Well that's news. Jeva Lange

5:01 p.m.

In the restrained and always level-headed words of the British tabloid The Sun, Harry Styles is set to shoot "red hot sex scenes with co-star David Dawson for [a] new blockbuster."

According to the report, Styles, "one of the most lusted-after men in music," will be "shooting passionate X-rated sex scenes" for the new movie, called My Policeman, "which … will delight plenty of men and women around the world." Thank you, The Sun.

Deadline, meanwhile, has the dryer version of events: the movie is set in the late 1990s, "when the arrival of elderly invalid Patrick into Marion and Tom's home triggers the exploration of seismic events from 40 years previous: the passionate relationship between Tom [Styles] and Patrick at a time when homosexuality was illegal."

Read more at The Sun and Deadline. Jeva Lange

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