To Combat Skin Cancer,

Calif. Targets Teens Who Tan

California lawmakers are about to crack down on a habit that is a hallmark of life in the golden land. Too many teenagers, they say, are getting too tanned.

The state is not about to start chasing after bronzed bodies on its 840 miles of beach. But it may soon forbid anyone younger than 18 from stepping inside a tanning salon.

Earlier this month, the California Assembly approved the ban, calling it a necessary response to the rising number of skin cancer cases in the state. The measure, which has the support of the California Society of Dermatologists, now heads to the state Senate, where passage appears likely. No other state has enacted such a tanning ban.

State Rep. Joe Nation (D-Marin County) introduced the bill. He contends that many teenagers are oblivious to the dangers of artificial tanning and that some salons are offering steep discounts to get them hooked.

California and 26 other states already require teenage minors to have the permission of a parent or legal guardian to use tanning beds or booths.

The new legislation, which the tanning industry opposes, would allow teenagers to use a tanning salon only if they have a doctor's prescription. Salons caught catering to teens would be subject to fines.

"We want to get away from the notion that there's something as a healthy tan," Nation said. "Anytime you burn your skin or get what some people call a healthy glow, you are doing considerable damage. And it could kill you."

-- Rene Sanchez

City of Big Shoulders Is

Sagging a Bit These Days

Chicago is sinking!

That was the conclusion of scientists presented at a joint meeting of the U.S. and Canadian Geophysical Unions in Montreal a few days ago. Researchers from Northwestern University's geology department and collaborators from the United States and Canada have been using global positioning system (GPS) technology to map the way the land is slowly bringing itself back to equilibrium since the glaciers that once blanketed the area melted about 12,000 years ago.

Based on 10 years of GPS readings at 200 points in North America, they discovered that with the weight of the glaciers gone, the land in Canada and the northern part of the Great Lakes is slowly rising -- and like a seesaw, Chicago is sinking.

"Hudson Bay in Canada is rising about 10 millimeters a year, and Chicago is subsiding by about a millimeter a year," said Giovanni Sella, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern. "Harbors are getting shallower on the Canadian side and deeper on the U.S. side., so we'll have more erosion on the U.S. side and Canadians will have the illusion that the water table is dropping, when in reality the land is rising."

Although one millimeter might not sound like much, over the past century the Chicago area has sunk approximately four inches.

Like water in a tilted bowl, Lake Michigan has sloshed toward Chicago as the northern lake floor rises.

"From a Great Lakes management perspective, it is something people are concerned about," Sella said.

-- Kari Lydersen

After Howls of Protest, City

Rethinks Doggie Seat Belts

Officials in Santa Fe, N.M., proposed making dogs wear seat belts a while back, and the basic public response went along the lines of what Steve Spraitz had to say.

"We have City Council people who think up the lamest laws. It's absolutely ridiculous," said Spraitz, a ceramic tile contractor who has two golden retrievers that like to sit in the front seat of his truck and look out the window.

Others weighed in. "Talk about spending our time and money on uselessness," Ray Sanchez posted to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper's online message board. "What will be next, a ban on cats and dogs living together?"

So last week the Public Works Committee voted to drop the proposal, but city ordinances will require dogs in the back of pickup trucks to be restrained "so that [they] cannot fall or jump from the truck or be strangled."

"They got such a backlash," Spraitz said. "What do you mean, seat belts for dogs? Give me a break!"

-- Kari Lydersen