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Senator Mark Begich (D. AK) had this to say about the NSA PRISM:

http://alaska-native-news.com/...

“I’m troubled to learn the phone records of perhaps thousands of Americans have been obtained by the government.  Alaskans are fiercely protective of our constitutional right to privacy. Today’s news raises concerns that those rights may have violated,” said Begich. “It is clear there needs to be greater transparency to avoid this type of unchecked monitoring of Americans’ personal communications. I have repeatedly called for a better balance between protecting our safety and protecting our Constitutional rights and will continue to do so. I fully expect the administration to respond to these reports as soon as possible and make sure that the entire U.S. Senate receives a briefing on these activities so that we may understand what actions we need to take to protect Americans’ privacy.”

Begich voted against the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments this past December citing concerns that the bill infringed on Americans’ Constitutional rights and lacked basic transparency.

Begich also signed onto a letter with several of his colleagues in July of 2012 requesting more information about the number of Americans’ communications secretly collected by the U.S. government under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The letter also raised concerns about a loophole in FISA, the four-year old surveillance law that gives the government the ability to search for Americans’ private communications, including phone calls and emails, without a warrant. Additionally, Begich has supported efforts to declassify court opinions on FISA which have secretly made determinations about the intent and reach of the law.

“I am pleased that Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby have called for a full committee briefing on this issue,” Begich said. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work in a bi-partisan manner to ask tough questions and hold the administration responsible for this potential over-reach.   My colleagues and I must continue to focus on strengthening privacy protections, declassifying secret interpretations of the law and cutting funding for this type of activity.” - Alaska Native News, 6/6/13

Well said, Senator.  Here's a run down of what else Begich has been up to.  He's still fighting hard for GMO labels:

http://www.sitnews.us/...

A study conducted by Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, and released Wednesday found that genetically modified (GMO) salmon has the capacity to breed with wild trout and pass their engineered genes along to their offspring. The Frankenfish-trout hybrids proved even more voracious than either their genetically modified or natural parents, amplifying the threat to ocean ecosystems.

 “It is clear GMO products pose a widespread and unmanageable threat to our wild fish supply and today’s reports indicate that developers of these Frankenfish havenot presented us with the basic facts,” said Begich. “We can’t let these GMO promoters play Russian roulette with our food supply.”

Both Aquabounty and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently issued a finding of No Significant Impact, have repeatedly asserted that all the relevant research has taken place. Begich expressed further frustration the research on GMO salmon breeding with wild fish is just now being done.

The second concerning report comes from the discovery of a strain of genetically modified wheat growing in an Oregon field. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has never approved any genetically modified wheat, so it is unclear why the Monsanto product was growing there. The U.S. exports about half of our wheat, much of it to countries that ban GMO products, raising concerns that the findings could threaten U.S. exports.

“It is important to consider these two items together.  Aquabounty assures us that there is no way for their Frankenfish to get into the wild. But the USDA and Monsanto gave us the same assurances that their GE wheat couldn’t get into production, and look at what happened. This all goes to show us that once you let the Franken-Genie out of the test tube, it’s almost impossible to put back in,” Begich said. - Sit News, 5/30/13

Begich has long been an opponent and critic of GE fish like Frankenfish, supports repealing the Monsanto Protection Act and has been a huge advocate of GMO labels.  Here's some of the legislation Begich has introduced:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

An amendment to the continuing Resolution being debated in the Senate was filed yesterday by Alaska's senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. The amendment called for clear and unquestionable labeling being placed on salmon products that have been genetically modified.

This is the latest obstacle placed in the path of Aquabounty as that company moves to place their GM salmon on storeshelves for human consumption.

There is concern in many corners that the genetically engineered salmon that has genes spliced from eel pout and a growth hormone from Chinook salmon will elevate the potential for allergies and that the elevated levels IGF-1 growth hormone will increase the risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration pushed through approval of the genetically engineered salmon during the Christmas break this past year and is currently in the public comment stage of the approval. It is expected that that approval will go through and GE salmon, affectionately nick-named "Frankenfish" will be on store shelves by next year.

“Alaskans deserve to know what is on their dinner plates, especially if it’s something that was grown in a science lab or was caught across the globe,” said Senator Begich. “With Alaskans world renowned stocks of wild salmon, every effort needs to be made to protect the hard-working fishermen selling a real, wild product from imposters trying to trick consumers.” - Alaska Native News, 3/19/13

Genetically-engineered salmon known as “Frankenfish” would be banned under legislation introduced today by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard. Begich, who has been leading the fight against GE salmon since he came to the Senate, is introducing two anti-Frankenfish measures today.

“Alaska has been supplying the world with nutritious salmon for decades,” Begich said. “We cannot afford to experiment with the world’s largest wild salmon stocks without the certainty that these fake fish won’t pose a serious environmental risk, especially to wild salmon and their habitat. I am introducing these bills to prevent against science experiments ending up on the plates of Alaska families.”

The first of Begich’s bills make it illegal to produce, sell or ship GE salmon in the United States unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds it would have no significant impact. Begich is the lead sponsor of the bill, called the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States (PEGASUS).

Late last year, Begich blasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their findings of “no significant impact” on the proposal from AquaBounty Technologies to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel-like fish, the ocean pout. Begich expressed serious alarm at the announcement and believes the FDA lacks the expertise to make such a finding without a thorough review of its impact on ocean ecosystems.

Begich is concerned about the potential impacts of the release of GE salmon into the wild, whether by accident or negligence, as has been the history of other invasive species. The FDA reviewed the AquaBounty proposal not as a food product but as a veterinary drug. Despite the precedent-setting implications of being the first GE animal approved for human consumption, the FDA only considered its limited production, not the more widespread production which would surely follow federal approval.

“The potential that genetically engineered salmon might escape into the wild, interbreed with wild stocks, and compete with those stocks for food would be a disaster not only for wild salmon, but also for the broader ecosystems in which they live,” Begich said. “The FDA lacks the expertise to judge the impact of escaped Frankenfish on wild salmon stocks but these potential impacts must be understood before its production is allowed.” - The Dutch harbor Telegraph, 2/7/13

Here's Begich's latest bill regarding Frankenfish:

http://communities.washingtontimes.com/...

Sen. Mark Begich gestures during a June 2 speech to students of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. The institute was founded to give rural high school students an opportunity to transition more easily into college life. Begich espoused the values of higher education and hoped that all of the students would graduate the program and excel at the university level. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star
Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, where wild salmon stocks are threatened, recently introduced the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States Act (PEGASUS), which would prohibit “the shipment, sale, transportation, purchase, possession, or release in the wild of GE salmon unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service complete a full environmental impact statement and find that it will result in no significant impact to the environment.” - Washington Times, 5/31/13
Here's a little more info:

http://www.akbizmag.com/...

The first of Begich’s bills make it illegal to produce, sell or ship GE salmon in the United States  unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds it would have no significant impact. Begich is the lead sponsor of the bill, called the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States (PEGASUS).

Late last year, Begich blasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their findings of “no significant impact” on the proposal from AquaBounty Technologies to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel-like fish, the ocean pout.  Begich expressed serious alarm at the announcement and believes the FDA lacks the expertise to make such a finding without a thorough review of its impact on ocean ecosystems.

Begich is concerned about the potential impacts of the release of GE salmon into the wild, whether by accident or negligence, as has been the history of other invasive species. The FDA reviewed the AquaBounty proposal not as a food product but as a veterinary drug. Despite the precedent-setting implications of being the first GE animal approved for human consumption, the FDA only considered its limited production, not the more widespread production which would surely follow federal approval.

“The potential that genetically engineered salmon might escape into the wild, interbreed with wild stocks, and compete with those stocks for food would be a disaster not only for wild salmon, but also for the broader ecosystems in which they live,” Begich said. “The FDA lacks the expertise to judge the impact of escaped Frankenfish on wild salmon stocks but these potential impacts must be understood before its production is allowed.”

Begich’s second bill would require any GE salmon product to be labeled as genetically engineered, a proposal the FDA has rebuffed.

“American consumers have a right to know what they are eating, especially if it was grown in a test tube,” he said. “I remain outraged the FDA has taken such a casual attitude toward our country’s food supply without considering other options. As chairman, I will be taking steps to protect our families and our coastal communities who rely on healthy salmon populations.”

Begich and other opponents of GE fish fear that GE salmon will compromise the health of American consumers who, if the FDA approves, may unwittingly purchase or eat a genetically modified piece of fish and feed it to their families.

In addition to introducing the two bills today, Begich led an effort by seven senators who urged the FDA to extend the public comment period and allow more time for the public to weigh in on its draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of GE salmon.  He is also leading other senators in drafting a formal response to the draft FDA action. - Alaska Business Monthly, 5/23/13

Begich has also been playing an active role in cracking down on sexual assault in the military:

http://www.politico.com/...

Top Democrats and a few Republicans want to take the cases out of the traditional chain of command — where an accuser might be reporting the crime to the very person she’s accused.

Military hawks say no way. Commanders need to maintain authority over their troops.

The dispute has exposed the latest fault line in the military’s handling of a reported 26,000 sexual assault cases last year, and one that could decide just how far Congress is willing to go to force changes on the Pentagon.

The Senate is holding hearings on sexual assault Tuesday, where the clash was on full display.

On one side of the fight are those seeking the change, like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Begich, who argue sexual assault cases need a separate lane in the military — even if that threatens the top-down culture of the Pentagon.

On the other side are institutionalists, including hawks like Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Buck McKeon, who argue the chain of command is fundamental to leading the greatest military fighting machine on earth — and shouldn’t be tampered with lightly.

While senators like Gillibrand are grabbing headlines for keeping the cause front-and-center in Washington, they will still need to win over colleagues reluctant to impose such a fundamental shift at the Pentagon.

“The problem is the military is a little different than other institutions and if you take accountability and responsibility out of the hands of the commanding officer, we shouldn’t do that lightly,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, told POLITICO. Politico, 6/4/13

Begich has been co-sponsoring legislation on this issue and pressing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to step up on this issue:

http://www.akbizmag.com/...

Begich is responding to reports of increasing sexual assault crimes in the military and the alarming case of a rapist who was court-martialed and convicted for his crime in Alaska but failed to receive any jail time. “The rapist's punishment doesn't even begin to fit his crime,” said Begich.  “This lack of justice is egregious and unacceptable and it requires your personal attention and immediate action.  Alaskans are outraged.  I am outraged.”

Begich is a strong supporter of legislation to prevent sexual assault and to help victims of sexual assault—especially in the military.  Begich recently co-sponsored S. 294, The Ruth Moore Act of 2013, which would make disability benefits for women veterans available if they are suffering from PTSD or depression following a military related sexual assault. Begich is also a co-sponsor of the Defense STRONG Act, which would strengthen protections for military assault victims to ensure crimes are reported without fear of retribution.

In the letter he sent to Sec. Hagel today, Begich writes:

“In addition to your personal attention to the sentencing of Nicholas Howard, I urge you to review the implementation of minimum mandatory jail time for those convicted of sexual assault under the military justice system.  Not only would mandatory jail time provide some small relief for victims, it may force offenders to think twice before committing these crimes.” - Alaska Business Monthly, May 2013

Also Begich is pushing his mental health bill:

http://www.prnewswire.com/...

Similar to CPR, Mental Health First Aid trains participants to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness on a "first aid" basis.

President Obama's executive order to reduce gun violence, issued in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, highlighted Mental Health First Aid, calling for funding to train each of the nearly 14,000 school districts in the U.S. and provide training to more than half a million teachers and school staff.

The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 (S. 153 and H.R. 274) would authorize $20 million in grants to train emergency services personnel, police officers, teachers/school administrators, faith community leaders, primary care professionals, and students in MHFA.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Mark Begich (D-AK) with 13 bipartisan co-sponsors including Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), with a House companion bill introduced by Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) with 25 bi-partisan co-sponsors.

S. 153 was included in the mental health legislation approved by the Senate HELP Committee (S. 689) and later overwhelmingly supported by the full Senate (95-2) as part of the Manchin-Toomey gun package (S. 649), which ultimately was withdrawn. - PR News Wire, 6/3/13

He's also been working with his colleagues in Hawaii to help improve education for Native Americans:

http://bigislandnow.com/...

All four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation are backing changes they say would strengthen the Native Hawaiian Education Act.

The act, which was originally enacted in 1988 and last reauthorized in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, was designed to develop innovative educational programs for native Hawaiians.

Proposed improvements include changes to the way members are appointed to the council that was established by the act, the Hawaii lawmakers said in a statement issued today.

The companion bills are designed to increase the NHEA’s transparency by appointing members to Native Hawaiian Education Council who are elected officials and well-known educators with at least five years of experience in native Hawaiian education.

Toward that goal, they would also require the council to hold annual meetings with the native Hawaiian community on each of the state’s six major islands and to submit a yearly report to the US Department of Education presenting the council’s recommendations.

Also, the legislation “aims to strengthen the council’s voice” by requiring an annual report from the DOE on the program’s funding and results.

The amendments have been included in a package of education legislation introduced in the Senate this week.

The lawmakers said in keeping with their commitment to the welfare of Alaska Natives and native Hawaiians,  Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, and Rep. Don Young also signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

The introduction of the measures follow this week’s inaugural roundtable hosted by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and the Alaska Federation of Natives  in Washington, DC.

The groups represent hundreds of Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native organizations, and the joint conference helped reaffirm the states’ continuing collaboration on behalf of indigenous peoples, the statement said. - Big Island Now, 6/6/13

Now in terms of next year's Senate race, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell (R. AK) has set up an exploratory committee:

http://www.treadwellalaska2014.com/

Tea Party Wild Card Joe Miller (R) has been calling for abolishing the IRS:

http://www.foxbusiness.com/...

In his first national television interview since filing for a 2014 U.S. Senate run, Alaska Republican activist Joe Miller criticized the IRS targeting of conservative tea party groups, calling for the tax agency’s abolishment.

“I think there’s a major opportunity, given the scandal at the IRS, to really get at trying to abolish that agency,” Miller told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on Thursday in an exclusive interview. “I think Americans are now more open to that than ever before.”

Cavuto also asked how the tea party-backed conservative felt about the administration strong-arming his constituency.

“It’s been a fundamental value of Americans to push back against that type of invasion,” Miller responded. “What the IRS has done is a confirmation of what the tea party has been saying for years. Now you even have the Left … basically singing our tune.” - Fox Business, 5/31/13

And Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (R) has filed to run for office but it's not clear which office he's filed to run for:

http://www.ktva.com/...

In 2014, a couple of high profile positions will be open, including the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Mark Begich, who's also a former Anchorage mayor.

And there's the governor's seat, for which Sean Parnell has already begun his re-election campaign, as well as the lieutenant governor's seat.

Sullivan says he hasn't decided yet for which office he'll be running.

“My only plan is to essentially have options,” he told CBS 11 News. “I'm down to two years left on this second and final term, and if I want to continue in public service, having that APOC registration out there puts an option on the table in case I want to continue serving the public, and I'm also looking at some private sector opportunities as well.” - KTVA 11, 6/5/13

Begich is in for a tough fight for sure and he's known that since he defeated deceased Senator Ted Stevens (R. AK) back in 2014.  Begich is a smart and tough campaigner and I have confidence that he can win re-election.  But one issue might help sway the race in Begich's favor:

http://thehill.com/...

Senator Reid held a photo opportunity with the incoming senate democratic freshmen class.
Senate Democrats hope to pass a five-year farm bill this week and bolster their appeal with rural voters, who they see as crucial to retaining their majority in 2014.

Democrats have stepped up their outreach to rural constituencies this year as they head into a daunting midterm election year with a slew of seats in conservative-leaning rural states to defend.

The quest to keep their Senate majority became more complicated Monday with the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is expected to appoint a Republican, which means Democrats will likely have to battle a GOP incumbent to regain the seat.

Agriculture is a major industry in Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas and North Carolina, four states that are huge GOP targets next year. Montana and South Dakota are open seats following the announced retirements of Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Meanwhile, Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are two of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents.

Other rural states where Democrats face competitive races are Alaska, Louisiana, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

“We have made great strides in enacting legislation to help spur economic activity in rural America, but there are still too many pockets where Americans do not have access to the same resources, like education and infrastructure enjoyed by residents of more urban areas,” said Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska), chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.

“We need to make efforts to expand broadband access to strengthen disaster mitigation, telehealth access and provide greater access to educational resources. These are programs and ideas that Democrats have long supported that are critical to the success of rural America, and issues that I will continue to advocate for in the Senate,” he said. - The Hill, 6/4/13

If you would like to get involved or donate to his campaign, you can do so here:
http://www.markbegich.com/

Originally posted to pdc on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 07:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos, Climate Hawks, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, DK GreenRoots, and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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