First Monday: Coming up in July

Monday: President Bush makes his last appearance at a summit of the Group of Eight industrial countries, held this year in Tokyo.

July 14-20: Boeing and Airbus will be among more than 1,500 exhibitors at Farnborough International Airshow near London, but as airlines struggle to pay jet-fuel bills, the rivals may not match past new-order announcements.

July 23: The Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions.

July 30: Walt Disney reports quarterly earnings.


By Michelle Archer, special for USA TODAY


Mad Men

AMC; Season two makes its debut at 10 p.m. ET on July 27; a first-season marathon begins at noon E.T. on July 20.

When we left the wily, spiffy and troubled characters of Madison Avenue ad agency Sterling Cooper, it was nearly Thanksgiving in 1960. The true identity of junior partner Don Draper (Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm) was revealed, and newly promoted Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) just had a surprise baby fathered by married blackmailer Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser).

Fast forward to season two, where it's Valentine's Day, 1962, a holiday ripe with the potential for the sexist and promiscuous behavior we've come to expect from this critically adored drama. Everyone has moved on, but the first episode gives few clues as to what's happened in the past year.

"We're going to take you into the next chapter of these people's lives," show creator Matthew Weiner promised viewers in a recent recap special.

"They will continue to surprise you," he adds, "because they will continue to behave like real people."

AMC will rerun all 13 episodes from the first season on July 20, or viewers can catch up with Lionsgate's new four-disc DVD set, encased in the shape of a retro Zippo lighter case.

Click & Clack's As The Wrench Turns

PBS, 8 p.m. ET Thursday (check local listings or

The garrulous Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Public Radio's Car Talk guys, give voice to their garage-running alter egos, Click and Clack, in PBS' first foray into animation. Ah, but it's not just a car toon. Public-service themes such as distracted driving and seat-belt usage are mixed in with the silliness. Two back-to-back episodes air weekly through Aug. 13.

The Recruiter

HBO, 9 p.m. ET July 28

This illuminating documentary revolves around Sgt. 1st Class Clay Usie, a verbally gifted soldier who's doing his darndest to enlist recruits for the Army in his hometown of Houma, La. It's a difficult task, one a fellow recruiter describes as "filling foxholes in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Usie's superior relates military recruiting to civilian sales jobs: "We do the prospecting. We solicit leads. We do all of that stuff that a commercial company would do." But if Usie fails to meet a sales goal, the stakes are incredibly different. "If we fall short, then we're selling our brothers in arms short in Iraq and Afghanistan," he says.



Friday (New York); R; First Look Pictures

With a dark tone and score, August, the movie, has little in common with August, the month. But the reason for the doom and gloom is twofold. For one, it's 2001 in New York City, a month before the attack that forever changes the city's landscape. And second, flashy dot-com millionaire — on paper — Tom Sterling (a brooding Josh Hartnett, channeling Tom Cruise) has just weeks before his Silicon Alley start-up, Landshark, runs out of cash. Its biggest client is going bankrupt, and a corporate raider (David Bowie) is hungry to take control.

In keeping with the era, it's deliberately unclear what Landshark actually does — Tom's father (Rip Torn) wonders aloud why venture capitalists have given Landshark millions when the employees just seem to play computer solitaire and eat Oreos at their Ikea desks all day.

Big Dreams Little Tokyo

DVD (Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, $14.99); NR; July 22

Writer-director Dave Boyle plays Boyd, a suit-wearing, Japanese-speaking American and self-proclaimed businessman who peddles — and pedals via a tandem bike — his book and translation services in an unnamed city's Japan Town. His roommate, a Japanese-American whose average stature denies him his dream job of sumo wrestler, is a reluctant assistant in this sweetly quirky comedy about sticking to your career aspirations regardless of the perceptions and prejudices of others.


Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000

Subtitle: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World By Pete Blackshaw (Doubleday, $21.95, out Tuesday)

When he started in 1999, Blackshaw likened himself to the Switzerland of consumer feedback, neutrally gathering consumer opinions to produce scorecards for companies. Though the company he founded is now part of Nielsen Online, Blackshaw remains convinced companies can't afford to ignore consumer-generated media such as blogs, video-sharing sites and social networks. His new book emphasizes the importance of a company's credibility, driven by trust and transparency, in the Internet age.

"Everyone is waxing poetic about viral marketing and one-trick-pony gimmicks," Blackshaw said. "But if you're really credible, you're going to get favorable conversation and buzz. If you lack credibility, you're going to be outed by a highly skeptical and networked consumer."

And that outing leaves a lasting mark, he points out.

"I've worked with a lot of clients who have been severely damaged by very hostile commentary that has almost taken up permanent residency in search results and Wikipedia and other places."


10 p.m. ET Saturday, 6 p.m., 9 p.m. Sunday: Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel (Melville House, $19.95). Public Radio's Evan Kleiman talks to Patel. His book says more people are starving and more are overweight than at any time in history.

4 p.m. ET July 20: Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries by Jared Bernstein (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $26.95). Economist argues monetary policies benefit the rich and powerful, and puzzle the rest of us, much to our detriment.


Old glories

Rupert Murdoch is a throwback to the days of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, the days when most major cities had multiple dailies duking it out on street corners for readers. That's how Mark Bowden describes Murdoch in a profile for the July/August edition of The Atlantic.

In Hearst and Pulitzer's time, the way to outsell rivals was to have something they did not. Reporting was about scooping the competition, not social reform. Stories were to be written clearly and concisely. Sentences were short and simple; language, plain. Literature was for books, not newspapers. This is how Murdoch understands journalism, Bowden writes.

At a time when newspaper companies are tinkering with futuristic models, Murdoch is doing so with both feet planted firmly in the past. His strategy for success in 2008, says Bowden, is to behave as though the year is 1908.

Tapping the data flood

Wired's July issue declares that we are now living in "The Petabyte Age." That's the theme of a 16-page section on how with increasingly sophisticated software, the handling of almost unheard amounts of data will no longer lead to information overload.

The magazine says 1 petabyte can be thought of as "data processed by Google's servers every 72 minutes." By way of comparison, 20 terabytes represents "photos uploaded to Facebook each month" and 530 terabytes represents "all the videos on YouTube."

Grove's energy vision

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, thinks electricity is the solution to America's energy problems. Writing in the July/August edition of The American, Grove lays out a plan of action for weaning America off its addiction to crude oil. Grove stresses that every president since Richard Nixon has set a goal of energy independence. Every target was missed.

The goal, he says, should be energy resilience. America can achieve that by increasing its reliance on electricity. Unlike oil, which is carried across oceans, electricity is transported only over land; it stays within the continent where it is produced. Equally important is the fact that electricity can be produced by multiple sources: petroleum, coal, wind, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear.

But real progress won't come until a large portion of the transportation sector is converted to electricity, beginning with automobiles, he says. Transportation uses more than half of all petroleum consumed in the country.

Black America's wealth loss

The nation's epidemic of home foreclosures and evaporating home equity will hit black America hard, The Nation reports in its July 14 issue. While minority homeownership may have grown during the real estate market boom, the mortgage meltdown marks "a devastating loss that will betray the promise of class mobility for tens of thousands of black families."

Estimates vary on the amount of wealth lost, but United for a Fair Economy estimated in January the wealth loss for people of color at $164 billion to $213 billion, about half of the nation's overall loss.

Contributing: Gary H. Rawlins, Bruce Rosenstein


By Dan Reed, USA TODAY

Philip Baggaley, a managing director in Standard & Poor's Corporate and Government Services analysis group, has followed airlines and aircraft leasing companies for 23 years and manages the S&P's transportation, aerospace and defense rating team. A frequent speaker at conferences on air and rail transportation, Baggaley also has testified before Congress and congressionally created study groups. He has, he says, "serious concerns about the future of the airline industry if current oil prices persist."

Q: Some analysts and executives say U.S. airlines are headed for a financial "catastrophe" because of high oil prices. Do you agree?

A: The current unprecedented oil prices, if they persist, are likely to cause a financial crisis for U.S. airlines that could rival that following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Although airlines have raised fares many times this year, the resulting added revenue offsets only about half of the higher fuel costs. We expect most airlines to report heavy losses and negative cash flow in 2008 and probably in 2009.

Q: Which carriers are in the most danger of a bankruptcy filing or liquidation, and why?

A: We have speculative grade ratings on all of the large U.S. airlines, with the notable exception of Southwest (which is rated investment grade), indicating a material risk of bankruptcy. We believe that these airlines have adequate cash and bank lines of credit to meet obligations in 2008, but if fuel prices remain at current levels and the economy remains weak, some could face loan covenant defaults and even bankruptcy in 2009.

Q: Would airline consolidation be a good or a bad thing for airlines, airline investors and travelers?

A: Airline mergers are very difficult, often resulting in problems combining employee groups and computer systems, which results in poorer service. Over the long term, some mergers … could strengthen their competitive position and improve earnings. However, the benefits will take time to appear.

Q: U.S. airlines have seen financial crises before. What's different now?

A: A typical airline industry downturn is caused by airlines overexpanding and then flying fewer passengers and having to charge lower fares during a recession. In the current situation, airlines have been cautious about adding new planes but face a huge increase in costs.

Q: Is air travel in danger of becoming unaffordable or inaccessible for many Americans?

A: There is no doubt that some business and vacation travelers will decide not to fly because of higher fares and the general hassle of the air transportation system. Still, even with higher fares, the price of air travel has increased much less over the long term than prices of many other products and services.


Interior designer Vicente Wolf is CEO of Vicente Wolf Associates, which operates VW Home, a luxury retail outlet that sells household furnishings and accessories that Wolf collects during his frequent travels around the world.

By Patrice Gaines, special for USA TODAY

Three all-time favorite books:

I love to read books that put you behind the scenes where you get a sense of the lifestyle and flavor of the time. So I'd say, Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capoteand His Black and White Ball by Deborah Davis; Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis; and Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke. One I've just completed and I have to include is The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn Nicholas.

Favorite genre:

I love biographies. I like the context they offer. Knowing details about someone like photographer Lee Miller gives you an insight into how people cope with life. I like learning about the process of how people become who they are — as opposed to fiction, which is just … fiction.

Last book given as a gift:

I gave my own book: Crossing Boundaries: A Global Vision of Design. I like to share my travels and experiences with people.

In his bag:

I'm usually carrying design plans. But if I had anything else, it would be catalogs. Auction catalogs from Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips de Pury from London, Paris and New York.

Business reading:

Elle Decor, House Beautiful and Metropolitan Home are my first choices in trade publication reading, but I try to read all the others, as well. In addition, I get a lot of travel inspiration from National Geographic and Travel & Leisure magazines.

Books that influenced his career:

Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia by Christopher Byron and Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief by Jerry Oppenheimer.

They showed me how these people have dealt with adversity. The sense of focus and purpose expressed is inspiring.