Thoughts by editor Greg Ettling.

It Only Was a Matter of Time

Red meat used to good for you, then red meat was bad for you.

Carbohydrates were important for your health, and then they were bad.

Dairy was good for you, then dairy was bad for you; now dairy is good again.

And we know all the latest mantras have to be true because any government-sponsored research program that requires $200 million of our tax dollars obviously must supersede any findings of the previous $150 million research project (“We didn't have the technology then that we have today.”). Too bad we can't buy common sense - that $350 million could have been put to far better use.

Now it's come to this: The drinking of water can be harmful to your body.

A recent study concludes that during times of physical exertion, it's better to have too little water in your system than too much. Warning signs all over the Grand Canyon warn hikers about water intoxication. People who drink too much water flush out needed sodium from their bodies, screwing up their electrolyte system and causing a condition called hyponatremia. Ironically, victims of hyponatremia suffer nausea, fatigue and muscle weakness - the very symptoms associated with dehydration.

Apparently, it's time for some people to dry out (and others to dry up).

Back in the day, us kids would run out the door on a hot, sunny August day to play ball all afternoon in just shorts and sneakers (no such thing as sun block then, only Copppertone tanning butter). We'd always play two, and between games, we'd run to a neighbor's garden hose and get a good long drink of lukecool water - and we were good to go. The pendulum has swung. Today, you'd think the whole world just got back from a two-year crawl through the Sahara Desert. Emergency rooms across the land are being flooded with an epidemic of aqua botellis hurticus - more commonly known as water bottle elbow.

Admittedly, us sandlotters probably could have used a bit more water and so our oh-so-health-conscious parents - after fixing us a BLT with extra mayo, fried potatoes and a big glass whole-fat milk - would light a Marlboro and remind us to drink a glass of water (but no ice; that's bad for your stomach) before we ran out the door again in the morning.

As with most everything else, it comes down to moderation. Even further back in the day, us kids would eat mud pies, crayons, glue and paste, bugs, and worse if there was a dog in the yard - not exactly FDA-aproved food pyramid-type stuff. And the most common side effects of those escapades usually were parental blood pressure-related maladies, of which a three-year-old kid cares scant little.

I'll go ahead and save us all the $250 million required for the next study: If you're thirsty, get a drink of water. If you're hot and thirsty, drink some extra water. If you get really, really extra hot and thirsty, drink some more extra water. But other than that - relax.

No MTBE Liability Sheild

Manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) will not be receiving protection from environmental-related lawsuits after all. The House had a plan that would have shielded makers of the suspected cancer-causing agent against litigation stemming from the contamination the chemical has caused through leaky underground storage tanks. But that plan had to be scrapped in order to get the next energy bill through the Senate and on to President Bush; it was the biggest roadblock to getting a new energy bill enacted.

The MTBE issue been a contentious issue among lawmakers for some time and while this particular chapter is closing, the final outcome is far from decided. This merely establishes some ground rules from which future battles can be waged - and whichever way they go - at much taxpayer expense.

For now, immediate winners of the legislation include energy industries, conservationists, POU/POE equipment suppliers, corn (ethanol) producers and, of course, the trial lawyers' local Mercedes-Benz dealerships.

Speaking of Too Much Water …

It's been an extremely hot and dry summer in much of the Midwest, and people have been pressed into using more water than they normally would otherwise. Still, it was quite a shock to a lady in Mascoutah, Ill., when she opened her bill from the city's utility department and saw that she was being charged $74,000 for 10 million gallons of water in June. “Luckily, when I opened the bill, I was sitting down,” she quipped. “I could have filled every pool in southern Illinois and still not used that much water.”

The city determined that the bill was the result of a faulty meter. Her real charge should have been $32, which was waived for her trouble.

“My daughter asked if I was hoarding water during the drought,” the lady says. “I told her I would have but I didn't know where I could find 10 million gallon jugs.”