Global warming watch. I kid you not: Global warming to spark rise in kidney stone cases, study says. The Chicago area alone would see up to 100,000 extra cases each year, according to the report published Monday in a widely respected journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is truly amazing what the search for a research grant will discover.

Naming and shaming. Now that the NSW Food Authority is being a little more forthcoming in providing details of food outlets caught breaking hygiene laws, perhaps newspaper restaurant reviews will start following the example of the Chicago Tribune . As well as the opinion of the paper’s critics, the Trib gives readers access to a database setting out the result of inspections by the city’s health service. The sample restaurant I checked was given a pass mark but some minor infringements were noted on the official report.

Add Indonesia to the list. We can add Indonesia to Crikey’s list yesterday of democratic countries where an incumbent government is doing poorly in the opinion polls. A survey by the Jakarta-based think tank CSIS published this week shows Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be struggling to win re-election next year. With support of 15% of voters he has fallen behind his closest rival, former president and current opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri who is on 23%. Regional governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono came third with 9%. Several other potential candidates got less support while 24% were undecided.

Save the balloon. The balloon lovers of California are fighting back against a plan to ban their beloved helium filled foil numbers. State Senator Jack Scott introduced legislation to outlaw the balloons because they float into electric lines and cause power outages, more than 800 in California last year. His proposal passed through the Senate but there is now a concerted campaign by children, wedding planners, party organisers and balloon artists to have it defeated in the State Assembly. The industry body, the Balloon Council, set up a website — that urges people to contact their state representatives.

That august paper of record The Wall Street Journal , noting that balloons are big business in California with 45 million foil balloons sold in the state a year at on average price just over $2 a pop, reports that the pro-balloon people are hoping that even if the bill does pass, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto it:

At a recent news conference, the governor commented that he couldn’t get the legislature to work on the now-overdue state budget. A member of the audience joked that they’d been too busy outlawing balloons.

“Oh yes, a very important law,” mocked Gov. Schwarzenegger. “Let’s outlaw the balloons. Let’s punish the people again.”

Mr. Scott, however, insists balloons pose a real danger and must be stopped no matter how unpopular the move may be. “It’s not my intention to ruin birthday parties, but children will inevitably let these balloons go up into the air and that’s a threat.

In California, the balloon industry has come under regulatory scrutiny before. In 1990, it became the only state to pass a law requiring that helium-filled foil balloons be sold with a weight affixed to them, such as a bag of chocolates or a coffee mug. Under Mr. Scott’s bill, someone selling a helium-filled foil balloon on a string could be fined $100.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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