Mitt Romney: Trump's Decision To Not Release Tax Returns Is 'Disqualifying'

Mitt Romney, former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, says Donald Trump must make his tax returns public.

Mitt Romney, former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, says Donald Trump must make his tax returns public. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A day after de facto Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said “there’s nothing to learn” from making his tax returns public before this November’s elections, the billionaire is taking heat from the party’s 2012 nominee over that stance.

“It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters,” said Mitt Romney in a post on Facebook.

Trump insists he won’t release his returns until the Internal Revenue Service has finished auditing them. An NPR fact check from February found that there was no law that prohibited the release of tax returns that were under audit.

There is a curious echo to Romney’s accusation of a “bombshell” in Trump’s tax returns. Romney, the former CEO of a private-equity firm, came under similar scrutiny in 2012 when he released only two years of tax returns in 2012 — and after coming under considerable pressure from the Obama campaign and some Republicans.

Trump’s decision to withhold the tax returns would break a nearly 40-year tradition for presidents and major presidential candidates, according to the Tax History Project.

“There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them,” Romney said. “Given Mr. Trump’s equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it’s a bombshell of unusual size.”

The real-estate billionaire’s actual wealth has been a subject of debate since he entered the race last summer. Trump claimed his net worth was $10 billion although Forbes magazine estimated it at $4 billion. Trump also released a 92-page financial disclosure form that didn’t shed light on his net worth.

In addition to giving a sense of Trump’s annual income and wealth, tax returns would also reveal Trump’s charitable contributions and which tax deductions and credits from which he benefits.

Romney’s comments mark yet another moment of tension between the two men. In March, Romney called Trump “a fraud” and a “con artist” and urged Republican voters to pick any other viable candidate in the presidential primary. Romney said he will not vote for Trump in the general election (or Hillary Clinton) and will not attend this summer’s Republican convention.

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How The Zika Virus Damages The Brain

This 3-month-old baby, born with microcephaly, is held by her father in Recife, Brazil.

This 3-month-old baby, born with microcephaly, is held by her father in Recife, Brazil. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, Dr. James Bale saw a series of MRI images in a medical journal of MRI scans of babies infected with Zika in the womb.

They scans showed something Bale had seen only a few times in his 30-year career: a phenomenon called fetal brain disruption sequence.

As the fetus’s brain starts to grow, it creates pressure, which pushes on the skull and causes it to grow. But if something stops brain growth — such as a virus — pressure on the skull drops. And the skull can collapse down onto the brain.

The skin around the head continues to grow, Bale says. So the baby is born with wrinkles of skin at the back of the neck and a tiny skull. In some cases, the baby’s head is as small as an orange, or about half the size of a healthy baby’s head.

“It’s quite remarkable what the Zika virus is doing to the brain of young infants,” Bale says. “Many of them will die often in infancy, and the majority, if not all, will then have a long-term, severe developmental problems.”

Now scientists think they have an understanding about how Zika causes these severe brain malformations. The findings come from a series of mouse experiments, published Wednesday in three leading journals.

In one study, published in Nature, Alysson Muotri and his team at the University of California, San Diego, infected pregnant mice with Zika and looked to see how the virus harmed the baby mice.

“We detected the virus all over the mice and in different regions of the body,” Muotri says.

But for some reason — and scientists don’t know why yet — Zika is particularly attracted to brain cells. And once inside the cells, Muotri says, Zika turns them into viral factories that start producing huge amounts of virus. Until they burst.

“They explode, and more viral particles are released that can infect other cells. And they can just amplify themselves,” Muotri says.

More and more brain cells get infected. More die. This cell death is already a problem for the fetus. It scars the brain and creates inflammation.

But the situation gets worse because the brain cells infected by Zika are extremely special. They’re called neural progenitor cells. And they’re responsible for building a large portion of the brain.

“These are fast-replicating cells that will give rise to billions of cells in our brains,” Muotri says.

So if a fetus loses even just a small percentage of these cells, a portion of its brain will never develop. “And the impact later in life would be dramatic,” he says.

A second study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, confirmed that Zika destroys neural progenitor cells inside a growing embryo. In that experiment, a team of scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, injected the virus directly into the brains of mice embryos, developing inside their moms.

Muortri says death of brain cells is likely the major way that Zika causes microcephaly in babies. But it isn’t the full picture.

In the third study, Indira Mysorekar and her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, also infected pregnant mice with Zika.

They found the virus not only damages the brain but also attacks the placenta.

“The nutrient and blood exchange that normally happens between the mother and the fetus is reduced,” Mysorekar says. This slows down the baby’s growth — and may hurt the brain as well.

Mysorekar and her colleagues published their findings in the journal Cell.

She says mouse experiments can never tell us exactly what’s happening in people. Human anatomy is more complicated.

But one thing is clear: Once Zika infects the fetus, “it leaves a lot of havoc and devastation in its wake,” she says. “It’s almost like a tornado or an earthquake. There is death following Zika.

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Public Health Professor: Because Of Zika, Rio Olympics 'Must Not Proceed'

The Olympic flame gets a lift from former Brazilian volleyball player Leila Barros, who took part in this month's torch relay. The games are set to begin on August 5.

The Olympic flame gets a lift from former Brazilian volleyball player Leila Barros, who took part in this month’s torch relay. The games are set to begin on August 5. Handout/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Handout/Getty Images

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn’t afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline: “Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed.”

The World Health Organization is soon expected to release a statement with guidance on travel to the Olympics.

NPR’s Robert Siegel spoke to Attaran about his controversial position. Attaran’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.

You are calling for the summer games to either be postponed or moved to other countries — London, Beijing, Sydney. Why?

The risk of [accelerating the spread] of Zika is simply too great to bear.

What we know from Brazil’s devastating outbreak is that it began with a single infected person who brought the virus to South America. Does it really make sense to send a half million [Olympic tourists] into Rio, which is, to be very clear, not the fringes of the outbreak. It’s the heart of the outbreak. Rio de Janeiro state has more Zika cases than anywhere else in the country. Doesn’t make sense.

So are you saying the games should be canceled?

No one is saying cancel the games. But is it at the end of the day sensible to run the risk of a global epidemic of, let’s face it, brain-damaged babies, when that could be avoided by simply postponing the games or moving them elsewhere?

This is not a question of worrying about whether individual athletes get sick or individual tourists. For any of those individuals, the risk is quite low. But when you multiple by 500,000, the odds are extremely high that somebody will take the disease elsewhere and seed a new outbreak.

Wouldn’t it also be logical from your perspective that no one should travel to Rio de Janeiro?

We can’t fall into the trap of being extremist. It would be completely inappropriate, totalitarian even, to say nobody should enter or exit. But do we need to accelerate the entry and exit by a half million people for [the Olympic] games?

We speak of the summer games, but actually in the southern hemisphere where they’re taking place, it’ll be winter. And some people say mosquitoes won’t be that much of a problem because it’s not their season.

There’s no doubt that mosquitoes will decline in Rio’s winter, but they’re not going to decline to point that the disease vanishes. Other mosquito-transmitted disease like dengue fever persist through the winter in Rio, and Zika will too because it’s transmitted by the same mosquito. But here’s the bigger problem: in Rio this year, insect-transmitted disease is up 600 percent over the same period last year. Why did it go up 600 percent when there are mosquito control efforts? That proves the efforts aren’t working as well as one would have liked. And even if the mosquito-borne diseases do go down over winter, they’re coming down from a level that’s six times higher than normal.

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Official Says 'Too Late' For White Nationalist To Resign As Trump Delegate

Attorney William Johnson, a leader of the American Freedom Party and self-proclaimed white nationalist, made it onto Trump's list of delegates. He now says he will not attend the convention.

Attorney William Johnson, a leader of the American Freedom Party and self-proclaimed white nationalist, made it onto Trump’s list of delegates. He now says he will not attend the convention. Jae C. Hong/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jae C. Hong/AP

It may be too late for a man identified as a white nationalist leader to be removed from a list of Trump delegates from California, to an official in the secretary of state’s office told NPR.

“The Trump campaign did not reach out to our office about removing William Johnson’s name as a delegate until Tuesday, May 10 — which is past the statutory deadline to submit delegate lists to the Secretary of State’s office,” Press Secretary Sam Mahood said in a statement.

William Daniel Johnson is affiliated with the American Freedom Party, identified as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Los Angeles attorney is known for proposing an amendment to strip U.S. citizenship from nonwhites. His existence on the list was first reported by Mother Jones.

After Johnson’s name appeared on a Trump delegate list published this week by the California Secretary of State, the campaign blamed a computer error and said it had taken immediate steps to remove him.

“Upon careful review of computer records, the inclusion of a potential delegate that had previously been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in February 2016, was discovered,” the Trump campaign’s California State Director Tim Clark said in a statement Tuesday. “This was immediately corrected and a final list, which does not include this individual, was submitted for certification.”

Johnson told CNN and the Washington Post that he resigned after the Trump campaign contacted him and that he will not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

“I was approved as a delegate, I submitted my application and I was approved,” Johnson told CNN Wednesday afternoon. “And then immediately when the list came out, they [the campaign] saw that they had a clerical error. And so then they sent me an email saying that ‘you are removed from the list.’ So I wrote back an email telling them ‘I understand. I resign.’ And then later in the day I got contacted by a media person, who says, ‘Well you’re still on the list.’ And so then I sent them a second email saying that ‘I resign. I will not attend the convention. I will not be a delegate.'”

NPR reached out to the the Trump campaign for comment. It did not respond.

The news of the white nationalist’s inclusion on Trump’s delegate slate in California comes as Trump is gearing up for a general-election fight by hiring new staff and taking on likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s critics have repeatedly accused him of racism for his statements about groups, including Muslims and Mexican immigrants.

For Johnson’s part, he said he is still a Trump fan — even if he won’t be a delegate.

“Mr. Trump is the real deal,” Johnson said on CNN. “He won’t govern by public-opinion polls. He will say what’s on his mind,” something he called a “refreshing change.”

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Final Sexual Assault Charge Withdrawn Against Former CBC Host Jian Ghomeshi

Jian Ghomeshi (left) leaves the courthouse with lawyer Marie Henein (right) after his trial arguments ended in February for a separate case also involving accusations of assault.

Jian Ghomeshi (left) leaves the courthouse with lawyer Marie Henein (right) after his trial arguments ended in February for a separate case also involving accusations of assault. Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi has signed a legal document called a “peace bond” and apologized to a woman accusing him of sexual assault, leading a Canadian court to withdraw the charge against him.

These were the last criminal charges he faced following a high-profile series of assault accusations, CBC reports.

As we reported, a Canadian court acquitted Ghomeshi in March of “four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance to sexual assault by choking.” Women’s groups criticized the verdict, saying it would discourage survivors of assault from coming forward.

In this more recent case, a former colleague of Ghomeshi at CBC named Kathryn Borel accused him of repeatedly harassing her in the workplace. She pressed charges in 2014.

On the front steps of the court Wednesday, she describes one incident: “He came up behind me while I was standing at my desk, put his hands on my hips and rammed his pelvis against my backside over and over, simulating sexual intercourse.”

She explained why she was prepared to forgo the trial:

“In a perfect world, people who commit sexual assault would be convicted for their crimes. Jian Ghomeshi is guilty of having done the things that I have outlined today. So when it was presented to me that the defense would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. A trial would have maintained his lie – the lie that he was not guilty. And it would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.”

Ghomeshi delivered the apology in court as a requirement for signing the peace bond. “I did not always lead by example and I failed to understand and truly appreciate the impact of my conduct on Ms. Borel’s work environment. That conduct in the workplace was sexually inappropriate,” he said, according to a transcript posted by CBC. “I realize that there is no way for me to know the full impact on her personally and professionally.”

In court documents, the Crown said: “By apologizing for his actions, Mr. Ghomeshi publicly accepts responsibility for them. Public acknowledgement of the harm done to Ms. Borel is a valuable consequence of this resolution.”

A peace bond is a common way to resolve a criminal case in Canada, the CBC reports. It is “essentially an agreement to keep the peace and remain on good behaviour, follow the law and abide by any terms or conditions.” The Toronto Star adds that Ghomeshi may not “contact Borel directly or indirectly and must not possess any weapons.”

Additionally, a peace bond is “does not mean an admission of guilt or wrongdoing,” Ghomeshi’s lawyer Marie Henein said, according to the Star.

In a statement released by CBC after the end of the trial, Chuck Thompson, Head of Public Affairs said: What Ms. Borel experienced in our workplace should never have happened and we sincerely apologize for what occurred.”

Cynamin Maxwell from the Toronto Rape Crisis Center was not satisfied with the apology, the Star reports. “I don’t know if there’s any realness behind it other than for show,” she said while demonstrating outside the court.

Borel notes that numerous other women have come forward with allegations against Ghomeshi:

“Jian Ghomeshi has apologized, but only to me. There are 20 other women who have come forward to the media and made serious allegations about his violent behavior. Women who have come forward to say he punched, and choked, and smothered, and silenced them. … All he has said about his other accusers is that they’re all lying and that he’s not guilty. And remember, that’s what he said about me.”

Among them is Linda Redgrave, a complainant in the previous trial where Ghomeshi was acquitted, the Star reports. Standing outside the court, she said: “I would like to hear him admit that he did what he did and I would like to know why.”

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As 10-Year Deal Nears End, Israel Urges U.S. To Provide More Arms Aid

Israel is the top recipient, by a wide margin, of U.S. foreign military aid. As the current 10-year aid package nears its end, U.S. and Israeli officials are negotiating a new and likely even bigger aid deal. Senators from both parties are prodding the White House to get a “robust” deal done; many have arms industries that will benefit. Critics call it a give away to a prosperous nation that drains spending on the home front.

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Deadly Texas Fertilizer Plant Fire Was Intentionally Set, Authorities Say

An aerial photo shows a crater and the remains of a fertilizer plant destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas, one day after the blast.

An aerial photo shows a crater and the remains of a fertilizer plant destroyed by an explosion in West, Texas, one day after the blast. Tony Gutierrez/AP hide caption

toggle caption Tony Gutierrez/AP

The fire that caused a massive explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in 2013 was a criminal act, federal and state authorities announced Wednesday.

Fifteen people — 12 of whom were firefighters and first responders — were killed in the blast at the West Fertilizer Plant in West, Texas.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office made the announcement at a news conference in West. ATF investigators said the agency’s fire research lab determined that the fire was intentionally set.

“After more than 400 interviews, a systematic fire-scene examination, the review of witness photos, videos and observations, as well as extensive scientific testing at the ATF Fire Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, the fire has been ruled ‘incendiary,’ or intentionally set,” the ATF said in a statement. “All viable accidental and natural fire scenarios were hypothesized, tested, and eliminated.”

The ATF said the investigation, which so far has cost $2 million, is ongoing and offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

“It is our highest priority to give victims of this tragedy an accurate explanation of what happened that day,” said ATF Houston Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder.

“It is our highest priority to give victims of this tragedy an accurate explanation of what happened that day” in West, ATF Houston SAC

— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) May 11, 2016

“Why the fire was set I don’t know. I can’t say what their intent was,” he said at the news conference, according to the Austin American-Statesman, which adds:

“He said Bryce Reed, a former West paramedic who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2013 on charges related to the construction of a homemade pipe bomb, is not considered a suspect, Elder said.”

As the Two-Way has previously reported, a fire was reported at the plant on the evening of April 17, 2013. About 20 minutes later, the building exploded, leaving a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Hundreds of people were injured and residents who lived nearby were forced to evacuate their homes, the Two-Way reported. According to The Associated Press, the explosion was so strong, it “registered as an earthquake of magnitude 2.1.”

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The presence of powerful chemicals — including ammonium nitrate, the dangerous explosive used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — contributed to the blast, the Two-Way reported.

NPR’s John Burnett said at the time that many of those killed in the blast were first responders. “The number of firefighters killed is nearly a third of the town’s volunteer firefighting force,” John said.

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Should An Anonymous Donor Be Able To Save A Public School?

Secret Funding Fairy

LA Johnson/NPR

The Traverse City Area Public Schools in northern Michigan have a saying: “Great Community, Great Schools.” The Washington Post agrees, ranking Traverse City high schools some of the most challenging in the country.

But the district of about 9,500 is losing enough students — 12 percent in the last 10 years — that last fall superintendent Paul Soma recommended closing three elementary schools.

Then came a surprise. At a school board meeting in March, when members had just voted to close two of the schools, Soma made an announcement about the third. “We are in the receipt of new information regarding a donor offering over $800,000 to keep Old Mission open.”

With just 168 students, Old Mission Peninsula School is costing the district too much money to keep the lights on, even though the school’s in an affluent area surrounded by some of the most expensive homes in northern Michigan.

The donor is anonymous, so who knows where the proposed money is coming from (the benefactor does have a spokesperson keeping in touch with the media), but this large sum has put Traverse City district officials in an uncomfortable position.

Leaders here have long demanded that Michigan’s support for public school kids not depend on where they live. Those same leaders say this is an offer they have to consider.

While they decide what to do with Old Mission, the other two schools will close. That’s for sure.

Over the past twenty years, districts around the country have seen the amount of private money in public schools increase 4 times, says Ashlyn Nelson, an associate professor at Indiana University. She says one way school districts and parents have reacted to inadequate state funding is to raise private money so they can get their kids what they want.

“That usually happens in very high income, high wealth districts to begin with. So it’s concentrating advantage in districts that already have students with the best advantages at home and at schools to begin with,” she says.

It’s a long-standing question in education. Should schools with access to more resources be able to spend more money? Or, should every student, regardless of what town or district they live in, have equal access to funding?

The whole thing has Meghan Flaska upset. She has three kids in Traverse public schools and says when she first heard about the donation she thought, “‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ The idea that one particular school could benefit in a public school system doesn’t make logical sense.”

She says it’s a generous offer but doesn’t send a good message.

“I don’t think that fosters a sense of community. I think it actually enhances the suggestion that there are the haves and the have-nots.” She doesn’t understand how the district could be upset about state funding and fine with this donation.

But Traverse City’s superintendent Paul Soma says accepting the large private donation can’t be equated to state funding.

“For us to somehow discuss that we’re not going to entertain that discussion, I think would be kind of derelict in our duties relative to resources,” he says, stressing that if the donation came with restrictions that would give the Old Mission students an educational advantage, for example, reducing class sizes, school officials would not accept the money.

Exactly how the more than $800,000 would help Old Mission Peninsula School is still unclear. Soma says they’re not disclosing what specific restrictions are attached to the offer.

Some parents, even at the schools that will close, don’t seem to mind, “I think it is fair because they’re trying to keep a school open in their community. And I can appreciate that,” says Earl Forton as he waits for his daughter to finish class at Interlochen Community School across town.

“And I think that if the tables were turned, the other school would be supportive that at least one of the schools has a chance to stay open.”

But even if Old Mission does stay open, the question still stands: Should private money have a place in public education? And if it does, who decides which schools and children get the benefits?

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