Short takes on issues
Out of a cell; into the limelight • Monday likely will be an especially memorable Earth Day for environmental activist Tim DeChristopher. The former University of Utah student, who was convicted of making fraudulent lease bids to forestall drilling on sensitive Western lands, is due to be released today after 21 months in federal prison. In December 2008, DeChristopher offered bids at a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction, and won 14 leases on public lands that he had no intention of paying for. He was sentenced to two years in prison despite his defense that his was a case of civil disobedience to draw attention to the climate-change crisis and was not criminal. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson admitted the sentence was a response to DeChristopher's lack of remorse more than to the disruption of the auction, which was later invalidated by incoming President Barack Obama's Interior Department. A court ruled the leases on lands near national parks that DeChristopher was trying to protect had been sold without adequate environmental review. The activist is schedule to speak Monday at the Tower Theatre screening of a documentary about him titled "Bidder 70." Dozens of locations throughout the U.S. will screen the film simultaneously and a Q&A with DeChristopher will be live-streamed to those sites.
Out of health-care limbo • It may be difficult initially to figure out whether you fit among the estimated 270,000 Utahns who will be eligible for tax credits to help pay for health insurance next year. But, like many new things, once Americans get past the initial confusion of the complicated law called Obamacare, it should work to help people who do not have health insurance get the health care they need. Families USA, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable health care, did the research based on the 2010 census and reports that about 89 percent of whose who will qualify for tax credits to help pay for insurance they will be required to have will be in working families. The largest single age group will be Utah adults between ages 18 and 34. The tax credits are designed for uninsured individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level who will be buying insurance using online state exchanges that will open for enrollment in October. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been much-maligned, but the more than quarter-million Utahns who will benefit may become convinced of its potential to free Americans from the increasing worry over how to pay their doctor bills.