Crayola opens colorful contest for new crayon shade

— Crayola fans feeling blue about the recent retirement of the beloved dandelion from the crayon box now have a chance to help choose its replacement.

Voting opened Saturday in the company’s contest to name the color of a new crayon, which will be a shade of blue.

There are five names to choose from: Blue Moon Bliss, Bluetiful, Dreams Come Blue, Reach For The Stars and Star Spangled Blue. Fans can vote once each day until the contest ends August 31.

Daily prizes will be awarded to those who vote, and all entries qualify for a grand prize of a four-person trip to the Crayola Experience attraction in Orlando. The prize also includes a $1,000 gift card, $100 Crayola prize pack and a $1,000 donation to a school arts program.

Fans waxed nostalgic when Crayola announced in March that the yellowish dandelion, introduced in 1990, would be pulled from its rainbow of colors.

The Easton, Pennsylvania-based company manufactures 120 crayon colors.

It has retired a dozen shades over the years, starting in 1990 when it bid goodbye to classics such as maize, lemon yellow and orange red. They were replaced with dandelion and seven other new shades including fuchsia, teal blue and wild strawberry.

In 2003, Crayola bid goodbye to blizzard blue, magic mint, mulberry and teal — though amid a hue and cry, fans were able to rescue burnt sienna.

No, Americans aren’t actually flocking to Canada in droves

— Remember when your anti-Trump friends vowed to pack their bags and flee to Canada after the 2016 US presidential election?

Well, surprise! (or maybe not): Despite the heavily touted rhetoric, available data shows few Americans actually followed through on that threat. Or at least, they haven’t yet.

According to statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the number of people from the US applying for permanent residency between January and March rose 3.6% from 2016 to 2017.

That doesn’t exactly constitute a mass exodus, especially when looking at the raw numbers: 1,882 Americans have applied for permanent residency in Canada in 2017, just 66 more applications from the same time period in 2016.

As for visas and authorizations issued to people from the US from January to March, the amount increased a mere 1%, from 2,497 in 2016 to 2,523 in 2017.

Moving to Canada is more difficult than it seems

Immigrating to Canada takes more than wishful thinking. Immigration lawyers surmise potential US applicants may have been dissuaded by the process.

Most immigration programs require a permanent job offer from a Canadian employer, one year of skilled work experience in Canada, a high level of English — and possibly French — and a significant amount of cash.

Having a Canadian spouse or relative to sponsor you helps, as does an acceptance letter from a Canadian school, but immigration lawyers say neither is a guarantee.

“Immigrating to Canada is not easy right now, and I imagine a lot of people who were interested in immigrating to Canada, once they did some research, realized that it was a longer and more difficult process than they expected,” said Nova Scotia-based immigration lawyer Suzanne Rix.

That could change, thanks to a fast-track application process the Canadian government launched in mid-June for high-skilled workers. It builds on efforts of Canadian technology companies to attract global talent that would transform Toronto into the next Silicon Valley, as new US immigration policies close the doors to would-be applicants.

Interest in immigrating to Canada was strong, but fell off after election

The interest among Americans to immigrate to Canada may have been sincere initially.

American searches for “How can I move to Canada” shot up 350% in a span of four hours on Super Tuesday, when President Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination in March 2016, according to a data editor at Google. The search spiked again in November as he clinched the presidency.

On election night, the desperation was so acute the Canadian immigration website crashed due to a “significant increase in the volume of traffic.”

Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia took advantage of the peaked interest and doled out a tongue-in-cheek tourist campaign that translated into a veritable “Trump bump,” according to residents.

Lawyer Cedric M. Shen provides immigration services to Americans and Canadians going both ways.

Dozens of calls, emails and website inquiries from Americans wanting to move north flooded his office in the weeks following Election Day. There was swearing and crying, he said, but by the new year it had tapered off — only to spike again on Inauguration Day, then quickly die off again.

“As with the US, you can’t just get a visa or permit and move to another country without being sponsored or qualified in some way,” he said. “If someone calls and says, ‘I don’t know anyone, I just want to move to Canada,’ and after asking a few questions you find out there’s no job, no family and you don’t want to go to school — there’s not much you can do.”

However, Canadians still seek American residency

Shen said the last time a political change lit up his phone lines was after the 2015 election of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Despite the fawning attention he gets from the rest of the world, many Canadians took issue with his Liberal Party politics and still do today.

And the interest among Canadians looking to move to the US remains today, he said.

“There’s no shortage of interest from Canadians who want to move to the US one way or another, even after the election,” he said. “We get dozens of calls and emails a day.”

How 4 Americans say Obamacare helped or hurt them

— As Senate Republicans have picked up efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, Americans have taken to social media and elsewhere to share stories of how they believe Obamacare has helped them or hurt them.

The 2010 health care reform law has long been polarizing: Some 51% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the ACA last month, while 41% had an unfavorable view, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

The public was more sour on Obamacare in November, when Donald Trump was elected President. About 45% had a negative view of it then, against 43% with a positive one, Kaiser says.

Here’s what some people told CNN about how they say current health care laws affected them:

Ashley Ruiz: ACA and Medicaid lift me and my son

Florida resident Ashley Ruiz is grateful for Obamacare regulations and safety-net spending, not least because of otherwise crushing costs for her special-needs son.

A Medicaid-funded program fully covers Jackson, 4, because he is disabled, with a rare skull deformity and adrenal problems. He received more than $250,000 worth of care in his first 6 months, including removal of part of his skull. Another surgery put bone grafts and titanium plates in his head.

He sees dozens of specialists on a yearly basis for the deformity alone, and receives therapy for autism.

Medicaid insures about two in five children and the same share of the disabled. Medicaid existed long before Obamacare, but as part of potential ACA replacement, lawmakers are considering cutting federal Medicaid support.

It’s unclear how Medicaid recipients would be affected. But Ruiz, a 29-year-old divorced mother of two, is concerned.

“I don’t think people understand that when you deal with a special needs child — once you are able to find a plan that covers you, it’s such a precious commodity. I think the fear for me and any parent like me is that there’s a potential that would be ripped away.”

She works at a small business that gives her flexibility to care for Jackson and her older son. But the job offers no insurance, so she has no coverage.

Ruiz relied on the ACA itself when Jackson was born. She and her then-husband didn’t have access to affordable insurance themselves. But because she was under 26, her stepfather’s insurance covered $100,000 in costs including an emergency C-section.

Melanie Brightwell: Obamacare failed me

Melanie Brightwell says she can’t afford individual insurance through the federally run exchange and keeps getting rejected for Medicaid despite making less than $12,000 annually.

Brightwell, 52, of Georgia’s Peachtree City area, says she had a full-time job and insurance, but received medical services worth more than $1 million in the last two years she was insured, including two major abdominal surgeries. She was laid off in 2015, months after her last operation, from her job as a sales assistant for a media group.

She now works part time, not yet able to land something full time. The cheapest monthly premiums for individual insurance she’s found, she said, ranged from $250 to $400, which she can’t afford.

Brightwell shares living expenses with her retired mother. She says Georgia won’t explain why it rejects her for Medicaid; she has retirement savings, which she says she’s tapped twice for car repairs. She visits discount clinics for occasional checkups, but cannot afford to see specialists recommended for her conditions.

“I was promised every American would get coverage, regardless of income,” she said of Obamacare. “Didn’t happen.”

She said she hopes to eventually qualify for Social Security disability programs, which would lead to Medicare coverage. She said she believes Obamacare is inefficient and overly regulated, driving up costs putting affordable and effective insurance out of reach for many.

Joshua Grubbs: Obamacare protects my toddler

Joshua Grubbs, an assistant professor at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, would have employer-provided insurance with or without the ACA reforms. But Obamacare protections, he says, ensure his son will keep getting the life-sustaining treatment he needs.

Grubbs’ 2-year-old son, Brantley, has cystic fibrosis. Current respiratory treatments, specialist visits and prescriptions would cost $60,000 a year without insurance, Grubbs said — but that figure would rise by tens of thousands of dollars should Brantley need hospitalizations or surgeries.

Obamacare bans lifetime and annual dollar limits on most benefits, and prevents insurers from refusing coverage or charging more for conditions that exist before new coverage starts. That ensures Brantley gets the kind of quality care that could extend his life, his father says.

“We do have insurance — good insurance — but we need protections for pre-existing conditions; and because cystic fibrosis is such an expensive disease to treat, we need no lifetime caps,” he said.

Even with his father’s insurance, Brantley gets supplemental coverage from Ohio’s Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps, funded in part by federal grants. The GOP’s talk of cuts to systems like Medicaid as part of health care reform makes Grubbs worry about the future of programs like BCMH and greater out-of-pocket expenses.

Businessman: Obamacare hurt sales, led to job cuts

Andy Furniss says Obamacare hurt his medical equipment business several ways — and had to cut full-time positions as a result.

Ohio-based Furniss Corp. makes knee rehabilitation devices for hospitals and wholesalers. To help pay for Obamacare, the government levied a 2.3% tax on the gross sales of medical devices from 2013 through 2015.

That cut deeply into revenue for a company hoping to make 5% net sales profits. To adjust, Furniss reined in bulk discounts, but that may have hurt sales volume. The business operated at a loss in 2014.

Furniss also believes demand dropped as customers dealt with rising costs of insuring their own workers. Furniss Corp. itself, which offers health insurance to its 11 current full-time workers, saw its premiums rise faster than in pre-Obamacare years, which Furniss attributes in part to the ACA raising requirements of what plans must cover.

Furniss cut some full-time positions and stopped research and development for a shoulder product, he said.

He said his business recovered somewhat after the tax was suspended in 2016. The suspension ends in January, so he hopes for a permanent tax repeal.

“You get a helpless feeling. I can deal with competition, but you cannot fight Washington,” he said.

Living to 125 and beyond: Scientists dispute there’s a limit to our lifespans

— Don’t mess with our collective dreams of immortality. A flurry of new research vigorously opposes a study from last year that dared to suggest there might be a ceiling to the human lifespan.

In one new paper, Dutch scientists predict that, by 2070, our lifespan may increase to 125 years while beyond that, the sky may be the limit. Their analysis was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The debate over his original paper, published last October in Nature and widely reported by CNN and other media outlets, took Jan Vijg, senior author, by surprise.

For a biologist, a natural limit to the lifespan “makes a lot of sense, so that’s why I never imagined the paper would stir up so much comment,” said Vijg, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

New analysis

To prove a 125-year lifespan is possible, researchers from the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute team began their study by refuting the relationship between age and immortality posed by Benjamin Gompertz.

This 19th-century mathematician pored over mortality data and noticed that young people have a very low chance of dying. Yet, in middle age, the chance of dying increases and then rises again dramatically in old age.

This exponential increase in the rate of human mortality has long been accepted wisdom, yet the Dutch researchers decided to challenge it. Instead of basing their work on data derived from the general population, they used data from a group of people noted for their long lives — Japanese women.

Using mathematical models, they claim mortality goes down in old age and projected an astounding new human lifespan — 125 years — will be achieved by 2070.

Along with this theory, an additional four separate papers poke holes in Vijg’s work. A Canadian team of scientists claims Vijg’s original paper is based on statistically “noisy” (or meaningless) data. Meanwhile, a research team from the University of Copenhagen argues that any inferences about lifespan potential are premature; a team from the Max Planck Institute claims there’s simply no evidence of a “looming limit;” and a team from the University of Groningen offers four cohesive arguments contesting the conclusions drawn by Vijg’s team.

What inspired this heated debate?


In their paper, Vijg and his graduate students, Xiao Dong and Brandon Milholland, analyzed aging trends in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

Vijg explained that their analysis was based not on some mathematical model that projected future data, but on “actual data” of real human lives. They examined not one but two different data sets, and what they observed was that, despite life expectancy being dramatically higher than it was 100 years ago, the probability of anyone living for more than 125 years was unlikely.

“Initially, you see this increase every year and you see this oldest record holder until the 1990s, and then it stops,” said Vijg. “Think about it, how strange it is.”

The number of healthy centenarians increased dramatically every year. That being the case, Vijg theorized “the supply is certainly there” to create more record-breakers, every year, yet there were none.

Vijg wondered, “How is that possible?” A decades-long plateau following years of new old-age records must mean humans have reached the lifespan limit, he and his colleagues concluded.

It is a rather logical conclusion for biologists, who have long seen that individual animal species each have a particular span of time in which they are born, develop into maturity, and then die, Vijg explained.

“When Jeanne Calment died, I really thought that this was the beginning of something very dramatic,” said Vijg. Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at age 122, which remains “the greatest fully authenticated age to which any human has ever lived,” according to Guinness World Records.

Hearing about Calment’s long life, Vijg rebelled against the accepted wisdom that lifespan “must be fixed, it must be like a ceiling.”

Yet, testing the theory, Vijg and his co-authors found no fresh old-age record breakers. Sure, the Canadian scientists who created a mathematical model found random plateaus, some seven years long — but still their research fails to explain a plateau of decades, said Vijg.

The Canadian scientists may believe their research disproves his, but instead, it “is a beautiful confirmation of what we found,” he said.

“They want us to be wrong,” said Vijg, who with his colleagues published a rebuttal to all the criticism. “I can see that it’s very depressing when you find out that we can never get older than 115 years on average.”

Vijg, though, is not a depressed man.

He says he’s seen the tremendous strides made in all scientific fields as well as technology and hopes that someday the aging process might be halted.

“We may be able to do that at some point, as I say, by the way, at the end of my paper,” said Vijg. “But if we are not able to do that because aging turns out to be still very mysterious, or a process that we cannot really intervene with, then we are stuck with a real maximum lifespan that fluctuates around 115.”

“Accept it,” he says.