Global executive picks L.A. as world center for urban mobility

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - SEPTEMBER 07, 2017: John Rossant, who heads LA Commotion, a multi day transpor

John Rossant is founder and chairman of the nonprofit NewCities foundation and creator of LA CoMotion, a big urban mobility conference and festival that’s attracting an international crowd to the Arts District Nov. 15-19.

A former journalist who has organized and produced conferences around the world, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Rossant, 62, intends to make LA CoMotion a world-scale annual event. He recently moved with his family from New York to Los Angeles.

Family influence

I grew up in Manhattan. My father was a journalist at the New York Times. We would religiously read the New York Times at the breakfast table. It was a very bookish household. My outlook on life was formed by early reading.

When I was 17, I applied to the University of Wisconsin, where my girlfriend was going. I fell in with students from completely different backgrounds than my own. I think people who grow up in New York often forget how insular New York is to the rest of the country and the rest of the world.

After my freshman year, my dad ended financial support following a big disagreement — and I probably deserved the punishment. I had to drop out for a year, lived in a cold water flat in New York. I worked as a messenger on Wall Street and cleaned mouse cages at a lab. I was on my own financially. Not fun, but it taught me how to survive on my own.

The Cairo spark

When I returned to college, I saw signs for an Arabic course. The calligraphy was beguiling and I said, why not. When I graduated, I won a U.S. State Department fellowship for intensive training in classical Arabic in Cairo. I found myself in this huge, very foreign, exotic, wonderful city. This was clearly the spark that ignited my fascination with cities and how cities are organized.

If the ultimate iconic car culture city could change, any city in the world could change.

— John Rossant on Los Angeles

My first job was in Saudi Arabia, at the English-language Arab News. It was a truly alien place for a journalist back then: an absolute monarchy, a tribal system. Nobody quite understood what a Western journalist did, and I think most people thought I was a CIA operative.

Copines Françaises

Back in New York after a year and a half in the Arabian desert, BusinessWeek called me up one day and said they were opening a Paris office. Would I be interested? I said, “ummm … yes …”

The editor asked me if I spoke French. I told him yes, of course. He said OK, you’re heading to Paris next week. Let’s just say my French was pretty basic so I had to learn on the fly. I had French girlfriends and I forced myself to go to lots of French movies. That worked.

Later BusinessWeek moved me to Rome to cover Italy and the Middle East. I had to learn Italian, of course, and that’s where I was lucky enough to meet my wife. In 1991, I covered the first Gulf War.

After that I was back in Paris as Europe editor. I was at a working lunch in Paris with Maurice Levy, the legendary CEO of Publicis, the big French advertising and public relations firm. He invited me to his office. We had a long discussion of French history and American relations.

Levy was clearly looking for someone who could speak French, who knew about communicating with the Anglophone world. The digital onslaught was just beginning and I didn’t see a bright future for print so I made the decision to leave BusinessWeek. I was made head of communications and public affairs at Publicis.

Digital tsunami

The very week I joined Publicis, Rupert Murdoch made a prescient speech in Washington where he told assembled newspaper and magazine editors: “You’re all going to be out of a job. There’s a digital tsunami coming.”

I immediately recommended that Publicis launch a high-level conference on the future of media. I cut a deal with Prince Albert of Monaco to create the Monaco Media Forum. I developed a real passion for bringing smart people around a table to talk about issues.

For several years I was in charge of producing the famous World Economic Forum in Davos — and I started to gain a reputation as someone who could put together these kind of events.

At the same time, I was more and more fascinated and preoccupied by cities, the development of cities. A majority of the human population was moving to cities. At the same time, the digital revolution and the Internet held out the promise of radically reorganizing cities. For the better.

L.A.: Where it’s at

I created a nonprofit foundation, the NewCities Foundation. Our big annual meeting has now been held in Paris, Sao Paulo, Dallas, Jakarta, Montreal and Songdo, a very successful new city near Seoul, [South] Korea.

More and more, though, I saw that the huge disruption sweeping over the mobility and transportation sector would impact cities everywhere, and I saw a need for a global gathering on urban transportation.

I read Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Mobility 2035 transportation plan and was impressed. If the ultimate iconic car culture city could change, any city in the world could change. So why not anchor a global mobility conference in Los Angeles? L.A. in particular and California in general are emerging as the center of smart thinking about mobility.

Take a leap

When I look back, it’s important to trust your instincts and leap into the unknown. You have to kind of just take risks with things. It’s a lesson that’s hard to impart to your children, because risks sometimes don’t turn out so well.


Local education partnership names new executive director


Pam Gould



By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer

Friday, December 30, 2016

After a year without a director, the Strategic Twin Counties Education Partnership has a new executive director.

Pam Gould recently accepted the post with the organization, commonly known as STEP.  Gould said that STEP, which began in 2012, operates as a collaboration of Twin Counties educational institutions, businesses, industries and community leaders who come together with one goal in mind: to improve the economic competitiveness of the region by increasing educational opportunities that lead to real-world jobs in the Twin Counties.

“Not everyone needs a four-year college degree,” Gould said. “There are great jobs in this area, especially in the field of advanced manufacturing. People just need to know how to prepare for them.”

Gould said she feels that this position is the perfect fit for her unique skill set. She earned a master’s degree in education from East Carolina University and has worked in the field of education for 30 years. Most of those years were spent working in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, Edgecombe County Public Schools, Edgecombe Community College and Nash Community College.

“As STEP director, I am working with the business community as well as the two school superintendents and the two college presidents. All of these people are great to work with and are fully behind our goals. I feel that all of these groups have been at the same place at the same time but rarely sit at the same table to seek solutions. This is what we are trying to do.”

Gould recently retired as the director of college and career readiness at Nash Community College before assuming the position of executive director of STEP. However, she said her years serving in various positions directed at preparing students for jobs will pay dividends to the community as she steps into this new role.

“I feel that I have worked my whole life preparing for this opportunity,” Gould said.

Gould said the board of directors of STEP will be holding a retreat in January to plan for the future of the program.

“We are really trying to focus our goals and avoid duplicating the efforts of other programs that are already in place,” Gould said.

Gould sees connecting with students and their parents as a big part of her mission.

“What I see is a big disconnect. Middle school students should be choosing elective courses that connect with high school electives on a pathway that leads to great jobs,” she said. “However, a lot of times, students choose courses that seem easiest or the most fun and don’t see the end result. Parents often step back and let middle and high school students make their own decisions about courses, when this is really the time they need guidance about what pathway to choose. These are not “fluff” electives. Students can really make a wise investment in the end if they choose wisely.”

Gould said she welcomes the chance to serve the Twin Counties in her new role.

“I am honored and excited to have this opportunity with STEP,” she said. “I look forward to working collaboratively to address barriers to educational success and showcase the positives happening everyday in our schools and community.”


Facebook Executive Jailed in Brazil as Court Seeks WhatsApp Data

Facebook Executive Jailed in Brazil as Court Seeks WhatsApp Data

Brazilian police arrested a senior Facebook Inc executive on Tuesday as a dispute escalated over a court’s demand that the company provide data from its WhatsApp messaging service to help in a secretive drug-trafficking investigation.

Court officials in Sergipe state confirmed that a judge had ordered the jailing of Facebook Vice President for Latin America Diego Dzodan. Federal police in Sao Paulo state said he was being held there for questioning.

Law enforcement officials withheld further information about the nature of their request to the messaging service that Facebook Inc acquired in 2014, saying that doing so could compromise an ongoing criminal investigation.

The arrest, which Facebook called an “extreme and disproportionate measure,” came as social media and Internet companies face mounting pressure from governments around the world to help them eavesdrop on users and filter content.

Arrests of officials from social media companies are extremely rare, though not unprecedented, because the companies typically comply with local court orders, especially from countries where they have branch offices.

“Precisely because these large global Internet companies have staff in many countries who are vulnerable to legal action including arrest and criminal charges, they generally do comply with legally binding requests from authorities for user data or to remove or block content in those countries where they have ‘boots on the ground,'” said Internet freedom activist Rebecca MacKinnon.

Prior to its acquisition by Facebook, California-based WhatsApp had less skin in the game in disputes with governments outside the United States because, unlike Facebook, it did not have staff scattered around the globe.

“WhatsApp is a company that was started very focused on US laws,” said Internet law attorney Marcia Hoffmann. “Now that it’s owned by a company with people and resources in other countries, there is more leverage for those governments to put pressure in new and in different ways. Arresting executives is one of them.”

While details of the case remain murky, court officials said the judge in Brazil resorted to the arrest after issuing a fine of BRL 1 million ($250,000) to compel Facebook to help investigators access WhatsApp messages relevant to their drug-trafficking investigation.

That is likely impossible because WhatsApp began using end-to-end encryption technology in 2014 that prevents the company from monitoring messages that travel across its network, said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“They are using technology to try to take themselves out of the surveillance business,” Soghoian said. The arrest surfaced as Apple Inc finds itself at odds with the United States government on similar grounds.

US prosecutors want the company to build a software tool to help investigators unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks. Apple has refused, saying it would set a dangerous precedent that would make its customers vulnerable to spying.

Privacy concerns have previously put Facebook at odds with Brazilian law enforcement seeking evidence in criminal cases, although the confrontations rarely rise to the prominence of Apple’s current standoff with the US authorities.

In December, a judge suspended Facebook’s popular WhatsApp phone-messaging service in Brazil for about 12 hours after it failed to comply with two court orders to share information in a criminal case.

Brazil passed an Internet law two years ago aimed at streamlining thorny legal issues, but lower courts still have vast discretionary powers according to legal expert Ronaldo Lemos, a chief architect of that 2014 law.

“The court of appeals tends to be more sensitive in these cases, but the lower courts are still tough, as today’s decision shows,” said Lemos.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Apps, Brazil, Facebook, Social, WhatsApp

Oculus Rift May Offer Better High-End Quality Than PS VR, Admits Sony Executive

Oculus Rift May Offer Better High-End Quality Than PS VR, Admits Sony Executive

After years of hype and development, high-end virtual reality (VR) headsets will make their way to consumers starting with the Oculus Rift this month, in 20 countries around the world. Sony’s PlayStation VR (PS VR) is one of its biggest competitors, and Sony Computer Entertainment vice president Masayasu Ito pointed out this week why he thinks its creation will be more popular.

(Also see: Sony to Host PlayStation VR Event at Game Developers Conference 2016)

“If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR,” Ito toldvideo gaming website Polygon. “However, it requires a very expensive and very fast PC. The biggest advantage for Sony is our headset works with [PlayStation 4]. It’s more for everyday use, so it has to be easy to use and it has to be affordable. This is not for the person who uses a high-end PC. It’s for the mass market.”

The Oculus Rift and even the HTC Vive do indeed boast of more impressive specifications; the screen resolution is higher and so is the field of view. Ito said they looked towards their regrets with the problems faced by PlayStation 3 and the immense success of the PS4 to decide on a strategy for PS VR, which would allow it to be accessible to the widest audience possible.

Sony has yet to comment on an official price for the headset and the accompanying box, but reports do put it slightly below the $599 (approx. Rs. 40,000) price of the Rift and significantly less than the HTC Vive at $799 (approx. Rs. 54,900). Both of those need an accompanying PC in the range of Rs. 60,000 while PSVR will only work with the PS4, which retails around Rs. 30,000.

(Also see: Facebook’s Sandberg Says Virtual Reality Will Take Time to Develop)

That does entail less of an investment if you’re looking to get into VR with first-gen devices, but you’ll have to wait till the end of the year to experience one yourself.

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