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BUCHAREST, Romania – Prosecutors have indicted the head of Romania’s public radio company and 10 others for allegedly abusing their positions for personal gain.

A district court statement on Wednesday said Radio Romania general manager Ovidiu Miculescu and 10 current or former members of the company’s board were suspected of abuse of office and conflict of interest.

Prosecutors say the 11 allegedly approved contracts between July 2011 and Jan. 2014 for tourism services in which they had a financial interest and made a total of 400,000 lei ($95,000) through the contracts illegally.

Miculescu was recently hospitalized and has not commented on the allegations.

Radio Romania declined to comment immediately. After prosecutors searched some of its offices Tuesday, the company denied the board was “directly or indirectly” connected to a tourism agency.

BUCHAREST, Romania – Prosecutors have indicted the head of Romania’s public radio company and 10 others for allegedly abusing their positions for personal gain.

A district court statement on Wednesday said Radio Romania general manager Ovidiu Miculescu and 10 current or former members of the company’s board were suspected of abuse of office and conflict of interest.

Prosecutors say the 11 allegedly approved contracts between July 2011 and Jan. 2014 for tourism services in which they had a financial interest and made a total of 400,000 lei ($95,000) through the contracts illegally.

Miculescu was recently hospitalized and has not commented on the allegations.

Radio Romania declined to comment immediately. After prosecutors searched some of its offices Tuesday, the company denied the board was “directly or indirectly” connected to a tourism agency.

SASKATOON – Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. says 140 positions are being cut next year and an undetermined number of temporary layoffs will occur as the company reduces output amid weak prices.

The Cory potash operation, southwest of the company’s head office in Saskatoon, will reduce output capacity by about 43 per cent to 800,000 tonnes, from 1.4 million tonnes.

The changes will reduce the workforce at Cory by about 29 per cent to 350 positions, after 100 jobs and 40 temporary positions are cut.

Most of the positions will be cut in February, with the rest in the third quarter of 2017.

In addition, production will be temporarily reduced at two other locations southeast of Saskatoon. The company is looking for ways to reassign those employees and hasn’t determined how many temporary layoffs will occur.

The Lanigan facility will curtail production for six weeks beginning in January and the Allan facility will curtail production for 12 weeks, beginning in February.

Meanwhile, production is being ramped up at PotashCorp’s lower-cost Rocanville, Sask., operation near the Manitoba border.

PotashCorp (TSX:POT) says it’s looking for opportunities to reassign employees during the down time.

TORONTO – Ontario’s government spending watchdog says there are too many uncertainties for it to determine the financial impact of the Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program to fight climate change.

The financial accountability office says it’s too early to say if the provincial government can raise the $1.9 billion it expects each year from auctioning pollution emission credits to industries, even though cap-and-trade begins Jan 1, 2017.

It says the impact on the province’s deficit will depend on how many emission credits are sold, at what prices and what the U.S. exchange will be on the auction revenues.

However, the opposition parties say the report shows the government can use cap-and-trade revenues on previously announced programs to “artificially” balance the books next year as promised.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli says cap-and-trade amounts to a “cash-grab” by the Liberals, and will let them book revenue now and pay expenses later so they can eliminate the $4.3 million deficit.

NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns says the financial accountability office report shows the government can “play games with the cap-and-trade money” to make their books look good at the expense of the climate crisis.

“The big one really for me is the government can take the money, make their books look good, and not actually take on climate change,” said Tabuns.

AP Explains: 5 Trump business ties that pose conflicts

NEW YORK, N.Y. – After Ivanka Trump appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” wearing a $10,800 bracelet from her jewelry line, someone at her company sent photos from the interview to fashion writers to drum up free publicity. A firestorm of criticism erupted over the impropriety of profiting off the presidency, and the company apologized.

If only the bracelet brouhaha was the end of it.

Experts on government ethics are warning President-elect Donald Trump that he’ll never shake suspicions of a clash between his private interests and the public good if he doesn’t sell off his vast holdings, which include roughly 500 companies in more than a dozen countries. They say just the appearance of conflicts is likely to tie up the new administration in investigations, lawsuits and squabbles, stoked perhaps by angry Oval Office tweets.

“People are itching to sue Donald Trump and stick him under oath,” said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush.

In an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, Trump insisted that the “law’s totally on my side,” and ethics experts agree that federal conflicts of interest rules largely exempt the president from running his businesses the way he pleases while in office. His company, The Trump Organization, had no comment on the conflicts issue, other than a statement reiterating its plans to transfer control of the company to three of the president-elect’s adult children.

Painter doesn’t think that goes far enough. In a letter to Trump last week, he joined watchdog groups and ethics lawyers from both Democratic and Republican administrations in predicting “rampant, inescapable” conflicts that will engulf the new administration if the president-elect does not liquidate his business holdings.

A look at five areas where conflicts may arise:


For use of the government-owned Old Post Office for his new Washington hotel, Trump agreed on annual rent to the government in a contract that was signed more than three years ago.

So what possibly could be the problem now?

Plenty, according to Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University who has studied contract. In addition to base rent, the president-elect agreed to additional annual payments based on various financial measures of how well the hotel is doing. Schooner says such payments typically require drawn out negotiations each year.

“How can anyone expect a government employee to negotiate with the Trump family at arm’s length and treat the Trump family like any other contractor?” Schooner asks.

Schooner thinks Trump should terminate the contract because, even if the Trump family acts honourably, the appearance a conflict will spread doubt throughout the contracting system. Federal rules prohibit government employees and elected officials from striking contracting deals with the government for just this reason, though the president is exempted.

“The U.S. government pays over $400 billion in contracts a year,” Schooner says. “Why should other contractors have to follow the rule if the President of the United States doesn’t have to?”

As president, Trump will have the authority to appoint a new head to the General Services Administration, the federal agency that signed the lease with Trump and will negotiate the rent each year.

Business at the hotel could get a lift if foreign dignitaries decide to stay at the new hotel to curry favour with the new president.

In addition to the Washington hotel, Trump Organization leases land from some local governments, including for a golf course in New York City and one in Florida.


Trump’s extensive operations abroad raise the possibility that his foreign policy could be shaped by his business interests, and vice versa. Trump has struck real estate deals in South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Uruguay, Panama, India and Turkey, among other countries.

In June, Turkish media reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for Trump’s name to be removed from the Trump Towers in Istanbul because of what Erdogan characterized as anti-Muslim comments by the candidate. A NATO member, Turkey is a key ally in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.

In India, the newspaper Economic Times reported that Trump held a meeting in New York a week after his election with business partners who put up the Trump Towers Pune in the western part of the country. The president-elect also has a Trump-branded residential tower in nearly Mumbai with another company.

Kenneth Gross, head of political law at the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, says Trump’s business ties will raise suspicions that he is getting special deals abroad because he is president, and that this runs the risk of violating the Emolument Clause. That is a section of the U.S. Constitution that forbids public officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments and foreign-controlled companies without the consent of Congress.

“He can’t avoid conflicts,” said Gross, “unless he sells his assets.”


One of Trump’s biggest lenders is Deutsche Bank, a German giant in settlement negotiations with the Department of Justice on its role in the mortgage blowup that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. The hit to Deutsche could be substantial, with the government reportedly demanding $14 billion.

Will a Justice Department under Trump go easy on the bank? It’s not clear anyone will know. Trump will nominate the head of that agency, too.

One possible response is for Trump to makes sure the Deutsche case is handled by career civil servants at Justice, and any appointee like the Attorney General is recused. A career civil servant doesn’t have to worry about being fired if he goes against Trump’s wishes, but may still worry about displeasing his bosses connected to the president.

More than 300 positions at Justice are currently held by presidential appointees.


The odds that the IRS will rule against Trump may be no different than before he was elected, but it’s difficult to know for sure.

Trump has cited a long running audit by the Internal Revenue Service in refusing to release his tax returns. If he is under scrutiny, it’s not surprising. In his Oct. 9 debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump confirmed he used a $916 million loss in 1995 to avoid paying federal taxes for years.

The president nominates the commissioner of the IRS who, assuming the Senate approves, serves for five years.

Trump will also get to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which rules on labour disputes. In July, the board ruled against Trump in a case involving workers trying to unionize at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas. The Trump Organization lists six other hotels in the U.S. on its website.


Trump said Friday that he agreed to pay $25 million to settle three lawsuits alleging fraud at his Trump University so he could focus on his preparing for his presidency. But this could also bring problems, as Trump himself has acknowledged previously.

“When you start settling cases, you know what happens?” the president-elect said earlier this year. “Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler.”

Painter, the ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, predicts the political divide in Washington is going to make things worse.

“The plaintiff’s lawyers are going to get in there because they can get a good settlement, and Trump’s political enemies are going to egg it on,” says Painter. “You put that all together and you’re going to have a lot of potential for litigation.”

Painter says Trump should sell his ownership stakes to minimize the danger the new president gets distracted by lawsuits. He adds, though, that this is just partial fix. The famously litigious Trump already is facing numerous lawsuits.

Asked to sum up his view on Trump’s situation, Painter replies, “A mess, a mess.”


Bernard Condon can be reached at

Gift Guide: Cool tech toys for the kid in your life

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Looking for a cool tech gift for a special kid in your life?

There’s no shortage of fun and fairly educational items these days. New toys for the holidays include little robot friends full of personality and magnetic blocks that snap together to teach the basics of computer programing.

Here are some toys designed to keep kids entertained without sacrificing on education:



Tablet screens and apps haven’t gone away, but they’re just not enough on their own. With these toys, kids can create and build with their hands, not just a tablet.

— Osmo. As kids arrange magnetic blocks or puzzle pieces, their creations show up on the iPad thanks to a mirror attached to the tablet’s camera. By arranging blocks, for instance, kids put together lines of code to guide an on-screen monster. Another game teaches entrepreneurial and math skills by letting kids run their own pizza shop. The base set costs $30. You then buy add-ons, such as coding for $50 and the pizza business for $40. It works only with iPads for now.

— Makey Makey. You connect one end to a computer’s USB port and the other to any material that conducts electricity, such as coins or even a banana. Kids can then turn bananas into keyboards and pencil drawings into controls for video games. The basic set costs $25, though for $50, you get additional clips and connector wires.

— Meccano sets. This is for the tween or young teen who is handy with a wrench and has a lot of time. Even the trio of smaller Micronoids sets ($40) require a decent amount of time and significant motor skills. The larger models, such as the $140 Meccanoid 2.0, can take the better part of a day to construct. Once assembled, these robots can be programed to dance, play games and interact with each other.

— Illumicraft. Don’t let the girly colours or rainbow stickers turn you off. The $20 kit combines science and crafting to introduce basic circuitry. Projects include light-up diaries, jewelry organizers, smartphone speakers and picture frames.

— Code This Drone. Software company Tynker and drone maker Parrot have joined forces to create this kit, which includes a drone and a one-year subscription to Tynker’s education service. The kit costs $100 to $150 depending on the drone selected. It teaches the basics of coding through games played with an app-controlled mini drone. Kids can program their own flight plan of flips and turns, or build their own game to send an on-app through an obstacle course, as the real drone mirrors the movements.



Parents with dreams of future high-tech careers are eager for their children to learn computer programming. And some toy makers say it’s never too early to introduce coding concepts, even if a child is still in diapers.

— Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar. Kids as young as 3 can “write” code by snapping together a $50 toy caterpillar. Each section signifies a command, such as “go straight” or “play sounds.” Hit the execute button to send the toy crawling in the chosen order. Older kids can program Code-a-Pillar to reach targets placed across a room, or send it through an obstacle course of their own creation. While the kids aren’t learning a coding language, the toy does try to teach cause and effect, as well as problem solving.

— Coji. As its name implies, this $60 mini robot teaches pre-readers to code with emojis. It also reacts when you tilt or shake it, and you can control it with your phone or tablet.

— Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set. With this $60 toy, kids build a maze with plastic squares and dividers, then program their mouse to make its way through to the cheese at the end.



Kids want more than robots they can guide with a remote or smartphone. Kids want personality, a little friend to whom they can relate and who recognizes them.

— Cozmo. This $180, palm-sized robot is expressive, adorable and fun to play with. A team of animators designed more than 500 reactions for the robot to pick from when it sees someone it recognizes, wins or loses a game, or completes a task. The result is a very cute and human-like buddy — think Pixar’s Wall-E.

— CHiP. This $200 robot doggie cuddles, plays fetch and follows you around your house. When he’s close to running out of juice, he even heads over to his charging pad and parks himself. This little guy is very loud when he zips around the room, so apartment-dwellers with hardwood floors might want to invest in a rug.



“Pokemon Go” isn’t the only way kids can play with augmented reality, the blending of the real and virtual worlds. And there are toys that make virtual reality affordable.

— Airhogs Connect. With this $150 system, kids use an app to fly an included drone over a sensor pad that, combined with a phone or tablet’s camera, places the drone into the game on the screen. As the physical drone moves, so does the one in the game. Kids fly the drone through hoops and shoot down alien invaders. Play is limited by the drone’s estimated 10-minute flying time.

— VR Real Feel Virtual Reality Car Racing Gaming System. This $30 car racing game includes a wireless steering wheel and a virtual-reality headset you stick your phone into. It’s not the fanciest VR technology, but it’s a lot of fun for what you pay. The system is set to ship on Dec. 12.


Follow Bree Fowler at . Her work can be found at .



AP’s look at how tech toys are going back to the basics:

Get ready to build! Hand-on toys that teach are hot

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Toys that teach aren’t a new thing, but a growing number are calling for kids to build with blocks, circuits or everyday items before reaching for a tablet screen.

Play is how kids learn about the world around them, whether it’s a toddler throwing a ball or teens playing video games. It’s about seeing how things work and what happens when they do something. And over the years, toys have gotten more high tech to keep screen-obsessed children engaged with such play.

But there’s growing worry among parents and educators that toys are moving too far in that direction. Educational toys that have a math and science bent — marketed under the umbrella of STEM — are now trying to get back to the basics: less screen time, more hands-on activities.

“When kids use their hands, your outcomes are much higher,” said Pramod Sharma, CEO of one such toy company, Osmo. “It’s very different than if they’re just staring at a screen watching TV.”

With Osmo, kids learn everything from spelling to coding not by touching a screen, but by snapping together magnetic blocks. A screen is still part of it; an image is beamed onto an iPad through its camera. But the idea is to have kids learn first with their hands, then see their creation move to the screen.


Educators agree that whether you’re talking about a toddler playing with blocks, or a teen building a computer from scratch, the act of putting something together helps educational concepts sink in.

“The way the world comes to us is actually through tactile activities, so tactile toys where we build stuff are incredible helpful,” said Karen Sobel-Lojeski, who studies the effects of technology on children’s brain development at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York.

Bloxels attempts to bridge the physical and the digital. Kids build their own video games by putting plastic blocks in a special tray, instead of writing out code. Using a phone or tablet’s camera, an app transforms the shapes created with the blocks into digital characters and scenery.

Makey Makey, a startup founded by a pair of MIT students, asks kids to come up with their own electronic creations by combining software, circuits and everyday items like bananas and doughnuts.


Sobel-Lojeski said toys are most educational when kids can learn how things work by building. But Juli Lennett, a toy industry analyst at NPD, said such toys are rarely on kids’ wish lists.

On the other hand, tech toys that have subtle educational value, but aren’t specifically marketed as such, can be strong sellers. Lennett cites Fisher-Price’s Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar, which introduces basic coding concepts by letting preschoolers assemble segments that each tells the caterpillar to do something different, such as “turn left” or “play sound.”

“I’m not sure that kids are asking for it, or that their parents just want their kids to go to Harvard, but it’s definitely one of the top-selling toys this holiday,” Lennett said.

Tracy Achinger, a former automotive engineer in Shelby Township, Michigan, said her 8-year-old son got interested in coding after starting computer programing classes this year. So for Christmas, she’s buying him an Ozobot, a golf ball-sized robot that kids can program by drawing different colored lines or using a kid-friendly, block-based programing language.


Achinger’s 3-year-old son will be getting an iPad this year. She said she isn’t against screen time, but believes parents need to keep an eye on what their kids are watching and playing. She said her older son has been playing creative games such as “Minecraft” for a few years.

“We try to keep it educational,” Achinger said. “I really think those kinds of games get their imaginations going as they create their own worlds.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised its guidelines to shift the emphasis away from banning screen time and toward balancing high-quality content with non-screen activities.

That doesn’t mean every toy with a screen is educational. Barbie has her own smart home in the form of the voice-activated and Wi-Fi-connected Hello Dreamhouse. And new versions of Elmo, Furby and the Cabbage Patch Kids have apps, which Lennett said are often more about branding than learning.

Sobel-Lojeski said slapping an app on a previously low-tech toy can backfire. Instead of letting the child imagine how a particular toy would talk or behave, the app fills in those holes.

“It cuts the child off from play that is much more important for development,” she said.

Some of the drive for tech in toys comes from parents who believe that the younger their kids are exposed to technology, the more prepared they will be for a lucrative career someday.

But Sobel-Lojeski said Albert Einstein came up with breakthroughs without ever touching a computer, let alone tech toys at a young age.

“We can easily be tricked into thinking that all this stuff is going to make our kids more intelligent or better scientists and that’s just not true,” she said.



Companies that make computers for kids also see the value in a construction element.

Kano shows kids how to build their own computers in a kid-friendly storybook format.

Kano co-founder Alex Klein said he had to resist suggestions to just put Kano into app form and skip the computer construction all together. He said the act of building a computer was key because it “created a huge sense of energy and momentum for what followed on screen.”

But Klein said screens aren’t going away anytime soon.

“You can’t compete with screens with kids,” he said. “So, for us it’s not about trying to push against what this next generation thinks is good or likes. It’s about providing a new angle on it that’s more creative.”


Follow Bree Fowler at . Her work can be found at .

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has green-lighted the sale of more than 100 Airbus planes to Iran, officials said Tuesday. It is the latest U.S. license for commercial activity with the Islamic republic following last year’s nuclear deal.

Airbus in September received a license to sell 17 planes to Tehran. Two U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter said the European manufacturer got permission Monday to export 106 more. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Airbus needs Treasury Department approval because at least 10 per cent of the plane’s components are American-made. Hoping to replace its aging fleet of 1970s U.S. aircraft, Iran has agreed to purchase tens of billions of dollars’ worth of planes from Airbus and its American competitor, the Boeing Co.

But both deals rest on precarious ground. President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to re-negotiate President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, the seven-nation deal that imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for the end of wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions.

And last week, the Republican-led House moved decisively to bar the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran. The bill must now clear the Senate, where the measure will likely face stiff opposition from Democrats. Obama would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, according to the White House, but Trump could view things differently once he is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

In a letter to Obama on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and two other top Republican lawmakers urged the president “not to take any action that would weaken United States or multilateral sanctions or other restrictions against Iran in this post-election period.”

“We respectfully request that your administration take no further actions designed to bolster international investment in Iran,” said the letter, also signed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, and Rep. Ed Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman. A smooth transition, they said, means providing Trump the “opportunity to assess United States policy toward Iran” without new complications.

In response, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said any decisions related to Iran would reflect “actions that have been in the pipeline for quite some time.”

The Treasury Department echoed that sentiment, saying the United States already had committed to licensing the export of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran and the U.S. would fulfil that commitment. The licenses include strict requirements that planes be used exclusively for commercial passenger use and not resold or transferred.

The planes are intended for Iran Air, whose sanctions were removed in January, and not Mahan Air, a company backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and used for ferrying weapons and fighters to Syria’s military. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces are accused of widespread human rights atrocities in their 5 1/2-year civil war against rebels backed by the United States.

In January, Iran Air signed agreements to buy 118 planes from Airbus, estimated to be worth roughly $25 billion. Iranian officials also have spoken of 112 planes being bought. The two Treasury Department licenses would authorize a sale of 123 planes.

Airbus’ base model A320 lists at an average of about $100 million. The A330 costs more than double that amount.

Under Boeing’s deal, Iran Air will buy 80 aircraft with a total list price of $17.6 billion. Deliveries are supposed to begin in 2017 and run until 2025. Iran Air also will lease 29 new Boeing 737s, making the deal worth as much as $25 billion in total.


Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

TORONTO – Canada’s defence minister said Tuesday the country will enter into discussions with the United States and Boeing to buy 18 Super Hornet jet fighters on an interim basis and will hold an open competition to buy more planes over the next five years.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday they need an interim fleet to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18s.

Sajjan said Canada remains part of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The government previously said it would honour its campaign pledge not to buy the next generation F-35 fighter from Lockheed Martin’s troubled program. Canada had previously talked about buying 65 jets from the program, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he wants a cheaper option.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, aiming to replace a wide range of existing aircraft for the U.S. and several partner countries.

Judy Foote, Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement, said they have a sense of what the cost will be for the 18 Super Hornets, but won’t know for sure until negotiations. Foote said the duration of the open competition for the remaining planes will take five years.

The government said the interim addition of 18 Super Hornets is needed to meet its NATO and North American defence obligations. The current fleet of planes is 77, down from 138.

“We have a capability gap,” Sajjan said.

Australia bought 24 Super Hornet fighters to replace antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.

Denmark recently announced it would buy 27 F-35 jets, which are equipped with radar-evading technology. If approved by the Parliament, Denmark would be become the 11th NATO country to buy the jet.

The United States plans to spend close to $400 billion to buy nearly 2,500 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

CALGARY – A new report says putting a price on carbon won’t likely affect oilsands development plans if the price of oil rises above US$60 a barrel.

TD Bank economist Dina Ignjatovic said that’s the estimated minimum price oilsands companies need to go ahead with their projects, and if it’s reached then the extra cost of a carbon tax likely won’t sway a decision.

If the price of oil stays below US$60 a barrel then the picture becomes murkier, said Ignjatovic, as advances in productivity and cost reduction would also need to be achieved and factored into any decision.

Ignjatovic noted that Alberta’s proposed carbon tax system would reward low-emissions oilsands producers and penalize high-emission projects, with Alberta Environment and Parks estimating most projects would see costs per barrel getting between 50 cents cheaper and 75 cents more expensive with carbon pricing.

The announcement of a federally-mandated carbon tax brings more uncertainty, since it pushes the price of carbon higher than what Alberta’s proposing by 2021, said Ignjatovic.

But even still, she said if the structure of the province’s carbon tax is followed, it shouldn’t be a driving force in rejecting a project, with the price of oil, more pipelines and greater efficiencies the key factors for project approval.

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