News you can use: online education, transporation innovation, Facebook Gifts, LCD settlement

Online education: A group of prominent U.S. universities will offer online courses for credit starting next fall, the New York Times reports. The courses will cost more than $4,000 each for students who aren’t already enrolled in the participating universities, which include Notre Dame, Duke and Northwestern. While other universities and entities offer massive open online courses, these courses will have a limited number of students.

Transportation and innovation: Regulators will today propose guidelines to establish rules about smartphone apps that are changing — and in some cases irking — the taxi and limo businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal. It wouldn’t be surprising that those industries would be protecting their turf, but former New York City taxi commissioner Matthew Daus tells the WSJ: “The regulators really resent being branded as cronies and antitechnology.  … But they have to do their job and make sure it’s safe, customers aren’t being ripped off, and people aren’t being hurt.”

Safety is a common refrain as some fight the road to transportation innovation. In California this week, the Public Utilities Commission fined ride-sharing start-ups Lyft, SideCar, and Uber $20,000 each, citing, among other things, insurance concerns. The Merc’s Dana Hull writes that the reaction of SideCar — a donation-based ride-sharing service driven by regular people who are hailed by smartphone app — was defiant. In a statement, the startup said it got a “20K ticket for innovating over the speed limit.”

Going beyond likes: Facebook has expanded its Gifts service to include more gifts from more retailers, and is now available to supposedly millions more users, the company announced Thursday in New York. Generous social networkers will be able to do more than just wish their friends a happy birthday or send virtual  hugs. Now they can let their credit cards do the talking and send gifts from Brookstone, L’Occitane, Dean & Deluca and more.

Get your share of LCD settlement: Did you buy an LCD TV, monitor or laptop from 1999 to 2006? A deal reached over the summer reached with manufacturers such as LG, Toshiba and others brought the total of an LCD price-fixing settlement to more than $1 billion. Consumers in 24 states and Washington, D.C., are eligible. The deadline to file a claim is Dec. 6. More information is available on the class-action lawsuit’s Web page.


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