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U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is taking issue with a decision by Wal-Mart to stop buying Alaska salmon products not certified as sustainable by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council.

Begich, in a letter to the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., asked the company reconsider making the council the “sole arbiter” of which fish Wal-Mart sells.

Fort Wainwright will gain, not lose, soldiers as the overall size of the U.S. Army shrinks during the next six years, according to Army documents provided to Alaska’s congressional delegation and others Tuesday.

An additional 552 soldiers are expected to join the 6,300 soldiers already stationed at the Fairbanks post as the Army reorganizes and cuts units from other installations.

The new soldiers, a growth of 8.8 percent for the base, would be assigned to Fort Wainwright’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and give the unit new “engineer and mission command capabilities,” according to an Army base-by-base analysis of the service’s proposed realignment.

The Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court Wednesday. The court’s 5-4 decision to rule that a federal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is receiving mixed reactions among Alaska politicians.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich also released a statement expressing support for the decision by calling it a “victory for individual rights.”

“I believe same sex couples should be able to marry and have the same rights, benefits, privileges and responsibilities as any other married couple,” the statement read. “While we still have a long way to go, today, the Supreme Court confirmed that the government needs to step aside, leave the decision to states and churches, and stay out of our private lives and daily business.”

Here in Seward, not only did the J1-visa workers help process the fish, large numbers also came here every summer to work in our restaurants and hotels, and most also took a variety of second or third jobs at places like Safeway, which helped it meet the additional needs in the busy season. This year, their numbers are visibly down, and those businesses other than, but including canneries have made greater efforts to recruit American workers from outside of town. But six weeks into the busy season, many businesses are still trying to recruit their needed workforce according to Norm Casagranda at the Alaska Job Center. You can walk around the harbor or downtown Seward and see the “Help Wanted” signs on tourism business doors and windows.

“I am determined to make sure Alaska seafood industry employers have the reliable pool of seasonal help they need to maintain adequate processing capacity,” said Sen. Begich, in a press release Friday, June 21st. “Without adequate processing capacity, fishermen can’t deliver their catch, families lose income, and communities lose tax revenue.” He added: The seafood industry provides many Alaskans with living wage jobs that support their families and local economies, however, when seafood processors cannot recruit enough employees to work in their processing plants, the entire system is jeopardized.”

An amendment to require labeling of genetically engineered salmon, introduced by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 20, for a vote on the Senate floor.

The amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill would allocate $150,000 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implement a requirement to label GE salmon.

“It’s high time this bill to prevent this imposter from disguising itself as the real deal is debated in front of the Senate,” Begich said. “These fake fish are a serious threat to the health of American seafood lovers and consumers have a right to know what’s on their dinner plate.”

Alaska’s U.S. senators have signed on to legislation that would limit the government’s authority to search Americans’ phone and Internet records.

Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski say there needs to be a careful balance between security and personal privacy.

The proposal, according to the senators, would require that federal intelligence agencies show that communications records are somehow connected to terrorism or other intelligence activities.

Sen. Mark Begich is cosponsoring a bill that would end secret interpretations of the Patriot Act, which enabled the National Security Agency to collect billions of phone records from Americans.

The Democratic senator reflects others’ views in Alaska’s Washington delegation: Lawmakers are demanding more transparency and congressional oversight on government surveillance, though they won’t say the programs need to be shut down or that Congress should repeal the Patriot Act.

“I have repeatedly called for a better balance between protecting our safety and protecting our constitutional rights — that’s why I’ve cosponsored a bill to end secret law and to bring greater transparency and accountability in our government,” Begich said.

If the E-Verify system challenges a person’s eligibility, the government could require that person to show up in person at the nearest Social Security Administration office to answer questions, under the terms of S744.

That won’t work in Alaska, Begich said.

“The requirement to appear in person would place a huge burden on people in rural areas,” Sen. Begich said in the news release. “It’s just not realistic, especially for the more than 30,000 Alaskans who live off the road system.”

Begich’s amendment would require the government to set up an alternative method of dealing with such cases for people who live off the road system or more than 150 miles from a Social Security office.

“We wouldn’t require the people of New York to take a boat, snowmachine or plane just to verify their employment eligibility, and we shouldn’t require that of Alaskans,” Begich said.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editorial:

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has endorsed a worthwhile idea amid all the hand-wringing about the secret spying efforts conducted by our government: At least let Americans see what the rules are.

Begich has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would require the declassification of rulings by the federal court that interprets the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Under the legislation, the attorney general could still block release of information about the specific individuals and the circumstances involved in the court’s rulings by releasing only a summary of the decision. If even a summary would reveal too much, the attorney general would have to report to Congress on why.

Anchorage Daily News Opinion:

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, says that we all should be secure from unreasonable search and seizure of our persons, property and papers. Logic argues that those rights extend to digital communications. We’re a long way from quill and parchment, but the principles remain. The check on government always has been to require a warrant, and the warrant requires probable cause. That’s reason striking the balance between liberty and security.

Clearly, there is no probable cause that would allow government access to the communications of everyone in the country. So the healthy wariness of Alaskans, echoed by Sens. Murkowski and Begich, is wise. Once a government gains power, government is loathe to let it go. That’s not conspiracy, that’s human nature.