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Cool

Some time ago, MIT began to offer much of its course material online, for free. Now they’re going to offer MIT certifications, also for free:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced a new program that will expand the university’s free online courses and allow would-be students to earn official certificates from a program called MITx.

The Internet courses will not only present course materials but will also offer student-to-student communication, interactive features, and online laboratories. Perhaps most interesting is that this program will not be limited to the United States. Anyone on the planet with an Internet connection will be able to take the courses, which are slated to begin in the spring of 2012.

“MIT has long believed that anyone in the world with the motivation and ability to engage MIT coursework should have the opportunity to attain the best MIT-based educational experience that Internet technology enables,” MIT president Susan Hockfield said in a statement. ” OpenCourseWare’s great success signals high demand for MIT’s course content and propels us to advance beyond making content available. MIT now aspires to develop new approaches to online teaching.”

‘Australia’ (Happy Boxing Day)

We’ll surf like they do in the USA
We’ll fly down to Sydney for a holiday
On sunny Christmas Day…

In other eras there were dream destinations for young people with no money or job prospects. Where do they go now? California? Florida? Hoho. More here.

Flakes

My face is peeling like a bad sunburn, probably from the antibiotics. Nice!

From here;

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System will have to cut another $46.1 million over six months, on top of a previously approved $250 million two-year reduction, under a detailed budget-balancing plan Gov. Scott Walker’s administration released Friday.

The new cut to UW was part of $123.2 million in additional reductions ordered to be made across state government. The amount in cuts was approved under the budget passed in June but not specified until Friday.

These are cuts made into a budget that’s already running; contracts signed, people hired.

This bit makes me laugh;

Walker’s Department of Administration ordered agencies to make the cuts without layoffs, if possible.

Semi-related, and verging into a rant –

From “Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” through a forwarded email;

Sexual Assault Service Providers (SASPs) were recently informed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that their SAVS grants will be reduced by 42.5% in 2012.

These cuts stem from three developments. First, the SAVS program was cut 10% in the 2011-13 state budget. Second, as a result of department lapses contained in the state budget, SASPs were informed last month by DOJ that an additional cut of 5.2% would be made to the SAVS program. Finally, revenue from the Crime Victim and Witness surcharge that funds SAVAS has been declining in recent years.

It isn’t pieces of paper that provide support for victims of sexual assault; it’s people. Federal funding is down, too (wonder why?). Local food shelf (serves three counties) is down $30G in funding and donations; they’ve cut hours of operations.

Tell me exactly how jobs won’t be cut, fuckhead.

(To be honest, I don’t think I even had this level of contempt for GW.)

Missing

One remote control. My son says he doesn’t know what he did with it. Checked couch cushions, etc. I keep thinking he put it in his pocket, because he’s absentminded like me, but he says no.

I guess this is a good time to watch some DVDs.

Stop SOPA

Here’s why:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

2nd amendment Christmas

Soldier shot and paralyzed at homecoming party.

A 7-year-old boy shot in the head from shots fired outside.

Seven people shot dead. They were opening Christmas presents.

A 3-year-old shoots and kills 5-year-old.

A 58-year-old woman shot from stray bullet while sleeping in bed.

Syria

A government that resorts to this is falling apart:

BEIRUT — As government troops advanced on a village in northwestern Syria, activists say the terrified residents fled into a valley for fear of being arrested or worse. What happened next, one of the activists said, was “an organized massacre.”

The troops surrounded the valley and unleashed a barrage of rockets, tank shells, bombs and gunfire in an hours-long assault, according to two human rights groups and a witness, killing more than 100 people and leaving no survivors in one of the bloodiest days of a crackdown by President Bashar Assad against a nine-month popular uprising.

The big lie

If you blinked, you probably missed this. The SEC announced Friday that GE Funding would pay a mere $70.4 million (chump change to these people) to settle charges of bid-rigging.

When I was a reporter, the scale of fraud involved in this kind of thing drove me crazy, because no matter how carefully I’d report it, it was too complicated for most readers (and some politicians) to grasp. Yet it costs them real money.

I remember that during the Carter administration, the Department of Justice published a report called “Corruption: The Hidden Tax”. They estimated that government spending on all levels – federal, state, municipal – was inflated by 30 percent due to fraud. (That was in the 70s. Imagine how bad it is now.)

Now, think about that. Your tax bills are much higher than they need to be, because so many people are taking a cut off the top. Municipal bonds are a particularly scummy pond of corruption, and the practice that’s described here is widespread. There are “safeguards” built into the bidding system that requires the issuing company to get their bid certified by another “competing” bank – but as we’ve all learned over the past few years, there’s no real competition. They’re all in bed together. It’s common practice for them to rubber stamp each other’s deals, safe in the knowledge that soon they’ll have their own turn at the trough:

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) — General Electric Co. agreed to pay $70.4 million to settle a criminal probe and civil claims for conspiring to rig bids on U.S. municipal-bond deals, overcharging state and local governments on investments.

GE Funding Capital Market Services, a former unit, is the fifth company to settle in a more than five-year federal investigation. The deal will resolve probes by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service as well as attorneys general in 25 states, the Justice Department said today in a statement.

“GE Funding’s former traders entered into illegal agreements to manipulate the bidding process on municipal investment contracts,” said Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s antitrust division. “This anticompetitive conduct harmed municipalities as well as taxpayers.”

The settlement will bring to $743 million the amount that banks have paid to end the case, some of which is being returned to localities that were overcharged, the SEC said in a news release. Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co. previously settled similar cases.

As long as there are no consequences that fit their crimes, the crimes will continue.

I feel fine

Sing along! Steve Simels has the backing track to the Beatles’ song, and talks about Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step,” the song that was probably Lennon’s model for the tune – a song that, as Simels points out, was pretty clearly inspired by Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.” Folk process!

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