LIVE: Sec State Blinken Reports Back To Senate After Ukraine Field Trip

Busy day on WonkTV!

There is so, so very much going on that we haven't had a chance to do a big Russia/Ukraine update. HOWEVER, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is available to answer questions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, fresh off his trip with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Kyiv, where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Things we guess they might talk about?

  • The announcement that the US plans to re-open its embassy in Kyiv
  • The announcement that President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to Ukraine is officially happening, and her name is Bridget Brink. This will be the first time America has had a permanent ambassador in Ukraine since Marie Yovanovitch.
  • New military aid to Ukraine
  • What Austin said after the Kyiv trip about how the goal is for Russia to be completely "weakened" going forward
  • Jesus Christ, is Putin going to invade Moldova next?

And much more, we reckon.

Watch live here:

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Zooey Deschanel Shocked People Don't Recognize Her Without Bangs. Tabs, Friday April 15, 2022

Actual Buzzfeed clickbait on Twitter, that was.

Russia's Defense Ministry now says that its Black Sea flagship, the guided missile cruiser Moskva, sank all right, but insists it went down while being towed in stormy seas after a fire onboard blowed up its ammunition stores. Ukraine says it sank the ship using Ukrainian-built Neptune anti-ship missiles. CNN reports that two "sources familiar with US and Western intelligence" said that "Ukraine’s claim is believed to be credible, although US officials do not yet have definitive proof," although the US has not independently attributed the reason for the sinking. [CNN]

Russia appears to have retaliated by attacking Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities with missiles. [Reuters]

And yes, there were memes. Because we love you, we will spare you the video with stock footage of Moskva and a really bad recorder rendition of "My Heart Will Go On."

Ukraine arrested Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Putin Ukrainian media oligarch who escaped from house arrest near the start of the war, and seized an assload of his assets, including "26 cars, 32 apartments, 23 houses, 30 plots of land, 17 parking spots and a yacht." It's the second yacht belonging to Medvedchuk that Ukraine has confiscated this year. [CNBC]

Here's Ukrainian news video of the bizarre fake railway station and luxury train car at one of his mansions, as featured on Maddow last night.


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Texas Gov Gets Very Own Blockade By Pissed Off Mexican Truckers, Good Job Well Done

A tit for a tat.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a number of measures that are absolutely vital to keep his name in the news with the primary coming up, and also ostensibly to protect Texas from Joe Biden's allegedly open borders. In addition to a stunt that would involve busing and flying asylum seekers to to dump them in Washington DC so Biden can have them (ha! ha!), Abbott ordered Texas state police to start performing "safety inspections" on every single commercial truck entering the US from Mexico.

When he announced the harsher "safety" inspections, Abbott said he knew they would "dramatically slow" cross-border traffic, but by golly it was worth it to keep Texas "safe." This week, it turns out that Abbott was more right than he knew: The inspections have led to hours-long delays for trucks entering Texas, and have sparked blockades of official border crossings by Mexican truckers angry at Abbott's policy.

The Texas Tribune reports that at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge near McAllen, Texas — normally one of the busiest ports of entry — no commercial vehicles crossed the border at all Monday or Tuesday because Mexican truckers had blocked both north and southbound lanes of the the highway on the Mexico side, in protest of Abbott's inspection order.

Crossings have also slowed to a fraction of normal in El Paso and at other ports of entry, and the New York Times reports that delays of up to 14 hours have led some truck drivers to skip Texas altogether, and to take the longer drive to cross the border in New Mexico or Arizona.

No big deal, it's only around $12 million a day in produce alone that's being held up. If the slowdowns continue, that's certain to lead to higher prices and possible shortages in grocery stores across the US, which of course will be blamed on Joe Biden and Democrats regardless of the fact that Abbott caused them.

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Senate Agrees To $10 Billion In Extra COVID $$$, After GOP A Bunch Of Dicks About It

Mittens Romney not a jerkwad for severalth time this week.

The US Senate agreed yesterday on a $10 billion plan to fund coronavirus treatments, vaccinations, and vaccine research, heading off the possibility that the US might have to cut back on ongoing treatment and free vaccines in the next few months. The funding will also cover additional testing capacity in case a new wave of infections arrives.

The White House has been warning that a cutoff of COVID funding could be catastrophic for programs that have provided COVID vaccinations and treatment to Americans at no cost. Without the additional funds, the government would have had to stop reimbursing providers for testing and treatment, retroactive to March 22, and would have been unable to reimburse for vaccines starting today.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday that the White House will keep pushing Congress for additional funding, because the US and the world need every dollar of President Joe Biden's original $22.5 billion request, especially to help people get the second booster shots that were approved last week. But, yes, for Crom's sake, pass this deal now to make sure existing programs continue. Deals are good!

“We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs, as we currently run the risk of not having some critical tools like treatments and tests starting in May and June,” Psaki said.
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