EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2013

Editorial: A look at what others are saying


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials published in other newspapers across New England:

A study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has thrown important light on the nation’s affordable-housing problem. Released this month, the study focuses specifically on rents, which have been soaring over the last few years, even as the median income of renters has fallen. The supply of available units has failed to keep up with growing demand.

The collapse of the housing bubble worsened the supply problem, as foreclosures forced many homeowners into the rental market. Tighter credit standards have restrained home purchases, so home ownership remains down. Builders of new rental units, meanwhile, target wealthier customers, frequently forcing those with low incomes into desperate straits.

“We are in the midst of the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has known,” summarized Shaun Donovan, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The squeeze has forced more people into homelessness. Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts have been feeling the effects, with greater numbers flocking to homeless shelters rather than face rents of $1,000 or more.

In Massachusetts, one of the few states to offer emergency shelter to anyone who qualifies, spending on motels has soared, costing taxpayers more than $46 million over the past five years, The Boston Globe reports. The number of homeless people in the state shot up by nearly 14 percent between 2010 and last January, to 20,000.

Nationally, more than one in four renters spend more than half their income on housing. To be considered affordable, housing should typically consume no more than 30 percent of a household’s pretax income.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, one of the tasks still before Congress is reshaping the housing market. The federal government currently plays an outsized role in home purchases, and must find a way to scale back its involvement. At the same time, as the Harvard report urgently demonstrates, it must find ways to improve rental opportunities. Tackling both sides of the housing coin should be a priority in the coming year.

-- Providence Journal

Seizures occur when large numbers of the cells that transmit information to muscles fire uncontrollably, causing everything from staring spells and twitches to falling, loss of consciousness and full-body convulsions. Anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of children with a seizure disorder -- also known as epilepsy -- experience seizures that can’t be relieved by pharmaceutical medications.

Now these young patients’ parents think they’ve found something that can repress the seizures. The problem is that it’s illegal under federal law. The federal prohibition against marijuana poses major roadblocks to families and shows the need for federal action to ease these draconian limits.

The strain of marijuana that’s been in the spotlight is called “Charlotte’s Web,” named for the child who was having 300 grand mal seizures a week but is 99 percent seizure-free after two years of treatment with the substance.

Charlotte’s Web is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC -- which produces the classic “high” -- and rich in cannabidiol, or CBD -- which is believed to be medicinal. (In children, the drug is taken in a liquid form that can be put into food or under the tongue.)

It’s good news that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first formal U.S. trials of cannabidiol, in the form of a high-CBD medication for severe epilepsy in children. To encourage more such study, some want to remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances altogether (a bill to do that went nowhere in the U.S. House last session). Others want to recategorize it as a Schedule II drug, like certain opioids and stimulants, with both a risk of abuse and accepted medical uses.

Right now, reclassifying the plant, we believe, is the least the U.S. government can do to facilitate the kind of rigorous evaluation that’s needed.

-- Portland Press Herald