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Below The Fold: Of Ethics, Water Wars And Radioactive Isotopes

Amid plenty of news about what may become of the alternative minimum tax, Maine is engaged in a different sort of debate over tax policy (one that Poland Spring likely won't be too thrilled about) -- whether companies that sell water from the state's aquifers should be charged the nation's first water tax. The Christian Science Monitor writes that as the $10 billion bottled water industry continues to grow, the group leading the charge to impose the tax "maintains that access to water is among the most pressing issues of this century, and that the windfall reaped by bottling companies should be more evenly distributed. After all, they say, water belongs to everyone, and more controls would ensure sustainability."

Water might not belong to everyone as far as lawmakers in the Great Lakes region are concerned. "Eight governors and two Canadian premiers sent a message Tuesday to the rest of the country, and the world: Forget about taking our water. They tightened control of Great Lakes water, approving stronger protections and keeping control in the region, instead of at the federal level," reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Water wars are raging in the West (go ahead, say it three times fast) as well, as the seven states that receive water from the Colorado River are meeting today to determine how to divide the river's water supply in the face of a likely shortage in the future. The Arizona Republic admits, "These are discussions only a true water wonk could endure, filled with terms like conjunctive management and storage algorithms and steeped in often-indecipherable water law. But the bottom line is whether the states can agree on a way to share a shorter supply without crippling economies or spending the next decade in court."

And speaking of spending the next decade in court, as former Enron founder Ken Lay grabs headlines for recent public defenses of his actions in the company's 2001 crash, The Boston Globe reports some related news in the world of corporate malfeasance. New Hampshire is using the $5 million that Tyco International agreed to pay the state to settle allegations of corporate misconduct to start a program "to teach future corporate leaders ethics and to educate investors." The program is expected to start with "a blitz of forums and seminars at the state's colleges featuring national government and business leaders and the media. The discussions will look at how corporate scandals can be avoided in the future," according to former CNN financial editor Myron Kandel, who is helping with the project.

Ethics are all the rage in Chicago as well, where annual ethics training might become a requirement for the city's 37,000 full-time employees if a city council measure passes. Ald. Margaret Laurino, a co-sponsor of the measure, told the Chicago Tribune that "the city's Ethics Board 'gets thousands of calls over the course of a year with [employees] saying, `Can I do this? Can't I do this?'"

And since no edition of "Below the Fold" would be complete without the latest from Alaska, The Anchorage Daily News reports that an engineer in Anchorage wants to "install a circular accelerator called a cyclotron" in his home office there, "to make a radioactive isotope. The material is injected into patients to detect cancer and is used with PET scanners." However, the zoning commission recommended that the city not allow it. If I had a dime for every time the city zoning commission didn't let me produce radioactive material in my apartment…

Elsewhere in the land of the midnight sun, residents can look forward to the possibility that they might receive $250 this winter if a bill that State Sen. Gene Therriault (R) plans to introduce is passed.The Anchorage Daily News writes that Therriault "said the idea is to use a chunk of the state's projected jumbo budget surplus to help Alaskans cope with higher energy costs."

Those are some of the stories we came across today that haven't been getting too much mainstream attention. What have you seen?