The Download: Michele Bachmann’s teen problem

US Rep. Michele Bachmann is contemplating tossing her hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination. With Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee out, the Minnesota Republican says her telephone is ringing off the hook, money is pouring in, and Facebook is “lit up” with people clamoring that she run.

That may be, but first Bachmann needs to figure out what to do about Amy Myers. In a letter sent to the congresswoman earlier this month, the 16-year-old sophomore, a student at Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey, challenged Bachmann to a “Public Forum Debate and/or Fact Test on The Constitution of the United States, United States History, and United States Civics.”

Myers says that she “is eager to put her public education against your advanced legal education.” (Bachmann has law degrees from Oral Roberts University and William and Mary.) She claims that Bachmann’s statements on the US Constitution are “factually incorrect, inaccurately applied, or grossly distorted” and goes on to say that the congresswoman’s ignorance on all things historical is an affront to women everywhere.

The Constitution and civics education has become something of a Holy Grail for the Bachmann and Tea Party movement.  A group called the Tea Party Patriots is planning to urge its members to “adopt a school” during Constitution Week in mid-September in order to pressure their local school officials to offer specific lessons about the Constitution during that period. According to Mother Jones, the group also plans to offer up some dubious lesson plans and other materials that some believe wouldn’t even pass muster with conservative groups that promote civics teaching, like The Federalist Society.

Although Bachmann, who leads the Tea Party caucus in the House, has planned classes for federal legislators on the Constitution featuring Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, questions have been raised about her grasp of constitutional issues, such as census data collection.

There’s little doubt that a debate would spark interest in civics, a topic that deserves a much higher profile in the nation’s schools. A recent report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that a third of high school students had a poor grasp of basic civics. In Massachusetts, campaigns to give more prominence to civics education have waxed and waned.

Bachmann has yet to respond to Myers’s challenge. But if Bachmann announces her intention to seek the Republican nomination, expect Myers to become something of a gadfly. The Facebook campaign is already underway.

                                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY


Personal information on 210,000 unemployed residents could have been stolen due to a virus found on state computers, reports the Globe. The Salem News reports your personal data could have been stolen if you are out of work and showed up at one of the state’s career centers or called about a claim in the past few weeks. WBUR reports the Qakbot virus is very aggressive. NECN calls it a “keylogger” virus.

The lawyer for former House Speaker Sal DiMasi denies that his client was desperate for cash.

Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins is fined $10,000 for violations of the state’s campaign finance laws, the Salem News reports.

The family that runs one of the largest egg-producing farms in western Massachusetts worries that two bills in the Legislature to regulate caged poultry could drive them out of business.

The Senate will unveil its municipal health care reform plan today. The Globe has a preview.


The Beverly City Council votes 9-0 against state legislation that Verizon Corp. says would promote cable competition and save ratepayers money. The Salem News explores the issue in a very interesting story.

By a margin of 855-698, voters in Manchester approved a $1.25 million Proposition 2½ override, the Gloucester Times reports.

An apartment building developer under fire for failing to provide promised amenities to nearby Quincy residents as mitigation for the project is putting up $150,000 to restore a marsh as a way to quell the backlash.

The North Adams Transcript says that North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright acted prematurely in scheduling an override.

Orleans plans overrides for schools and roads.


The Senate’s Gang of Six is down a man.


The Globe says Obama’s quick return to Massachusetts to attend a fundraiser is a testament to the amount of political and financial support he has in the Bay State.

Rep. Michael Capuano is still on the fence about challenging Sen. Scott Brown.

Brian McGrory praises Mitt Romney’s “reasonable and practical” stance on health care reform, and says the Massachusetts law led to a steep drop in so-called free care. Jeff Jacoby, meanwhile, blasts Romney’s defense of the Massachusetts law, a law he says hasn’t solved the “free rider problem.”

Setti Warren criticizes Sen. Scott Brown’s support of the Ryan budget, which would make significant changes to Medicare, over at BlueMassGroup.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie keeps saying he won’t run, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from asking him to run.


Outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has apologized to Northeast commercial fishermen and returned $650,000 in fines after an investigation found NOAA officials selectively enforced the rules and levied excessive fines against fishermen in this region.


Cambridge City Councilor Ken Reeves calls South Boston a “desert” and predicts that Vertex will return to his side of the Charles. The pharmaceutical company recently signed a $1 billion lease at Fan Pier after being wined and dined by Mayor Tom Menino, while failing to secure a curb cut from Cambridge City Hall.

Jim Lacey says in the National Review that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and the other 60 or so billionaires who have pledged to give away half their fortune to charities would be doing a bigger service to humanity by reinvesting in capitalism and distributing jobs instead of handouts.


In its latest rankings, US News & World Report crowns Children’s Hospital Boston one of the two top pediatric hospitals in the country, tied with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Radio Boston reports on a Dana Farber program that aims to restore the sex lives of cancer patients.


In an editorial, the Globe says the MBTA lacks the leverage over MBCR needed to keep the commuter rail system operating efficiently.

Labor and fuel costs strain Amtrak’s bottom line.


A worker at a veterans hospital in Bedford is arrested for selling cocaine to a veteran seeking treatment for addiction. The Lowell Sun reports the worker is the son of a Billerica cop.

With the rise in copper prices, Fall River police believe thieves are targeting vacant public buildings to steal copper flashing and pipes and other items made of the material.

A former Stoughton police officer who was found guilty of corruption has been suspended from practicing law by the state’s highest court pending the appeal of his conviction.

A report commissioned by US Catholic Bishops faults the combination of the social change of the 60s and 70s and unprepared priests for sex abuse, the Globe reports. The report also said that fewer than 5 percent of abusive priests fit the definition of “pedophile.”


The White House gets into a public spitting match with the Herald.