On this month's business calendar:
July 9: Four-month anniversary of current bull market.
July 10: U.S. Treasury auto task force deadline for court approval of General Motors' asset sale, or the government will cut off GM funding.
July 11: Deadline for Windows XP and Vista users to pre-order a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium for $49 or Windows 7 Professional for $99.
July 16: Former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson slated to testify before the House Oversight committee about his role in Bank of America's purchase of Merrill Lynch.
July 28: First scheduled federal bankruptcy court conference in a lawsuit filed by ex-clients of Bernard Madoff challenging the methodology used to calculate and pay victims' losses.
July 29: Sirius XM Radio increases subscribers' monthly bills almost $2.
WATCH, LISTEN & READ
By Michelle Archer, Special for USA TODAY
The Ascent of Money
PBS, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson returns to PBS with more lively explanations of the evolution of global finance. Each Wednesday in July, Ferguson aims to use history and plain language to show how we get into such pickles as the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the insurance-industry aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Ferguson says that a lot of the financial innovations of the past century have been of great benefit to mankind, but it's a bumpy ride.
"Financial history is like a mountain range. There are these peaks and also these sudden cliffs that you fall off," Ferguson says. "But the long-term story is one of ascent."
Though he says we're living through the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, it won't take us back to the 1930s.
"It may take our portfolios back a decade, but it won't take us all the way back to our previous generations'," Ferguson says.
Porn: Business of Pleasure
CNBC, July 15, 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET
For CNBC's Melissa Lee, working on the one-hour documentary Porn: Business of Pleasure was just like covering any other industry.
"It truly is a business like any other business out there," Lee said. "Yes, the product is different and the employees are probably much more colorful, but at the end of the day, this is an industry trying to make money."
There's a lot of money at stake: $100 billion globally, Lee's show estimates, with $3,075 spent every second on adult content.
Problem is, as one industry executive tells Lee without a trace of irony, technology has eliminated all barriers to entry. With so much free content available online, another executive says, why would someone want to pay for it?
Reduced DVD sales have the industry scrambling to figure out how to monetize an Internet and mobile-phone strategy, Lee says.
"And so it's interesting to see what this industry, which has been at the forefront of technology for so long, is now doing to cope with those problems as sort of a guide to what other companies may do."
Wide Angle: The Market Maker
PBS, July 22, 10 p.m. ET (check local listings or pbs.org)
It's a true story that should have Hollywood calling.
Eleni Gabre-Madhin was a Cornell undergraduate during the 1984 famine that killed nearly a million Ethiopians, despite a surplus of food in the southern part of the country. Pledging then to help her native country feed itself, she earned a doctorate in economics from Stanford and went to work for the World Bank, laying the foundation of her dream: to return to Ethiopia and launch its first commodities exchange.
Host Aaron Brown, who recently returned from East Africa, says before the exchange opened a little more than a year ago, Ethiopian farmers never knew what their products were worth. Now, trading screens set up in villages show the current prices of commodities such as corn, coffee and honey.
Inefficiencies are being addressed, and a standardized grading system is being implemented.
Challenges, of course, remain. But Brown says Gabre-Madhin has already overcome many obstacles.
"It is really the story of one person's vision and how tenacious she has been, the sacrifices she has made, the intelligence she has applied, to feed a country," Brown said. "And if it works, it becomes a model for the continent."
Mad Men, Season 2
Lionsgate, July 14, $49.98, DVD or Blu-ray
For fans of Mad Men, the stylish drama set in a 1960s-era New York advertising agency, summer is an embarrassment of riches. Season 2, which wrapped up last fall, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray July 14 and marathons all day Aug. 10 on AMC. Newcomers can catch up with Season 1 on AMC On Demand now.
And just when you think you're too full, dessert arrives with the Aug. 16 premiere of the third season.
So what's in it for buyers of the box set? For starters, snazzy packaging in the form of a shirt box and a coupon for bleach — to get the lipstick stains out of the collar, get it? But the real meat beyond the 13 episodes lies in the juicy extras: commentaries and featurettes, including "Birth of an Independent Woman," a fascinating look at feminism and the 1960s transformation of housewives to working women.
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
By Ben Mezrich (Doubleday, $25, July 14)
One of Ben Mezrich's earlier books, Bringing Down the House, became the movie 21. His new Facebook tell-all, written with the cooperation of recently acknowledged co-founder Eduardo Saverin but without the participation of the site's public face, Mark Zuckerberg, already has a Hollywood adaptation in the works. Small wonder, then, that Accidental Billionaires already reads like a screenplay. Mezrich says he re-created scenes in the book based on documents and interviews. This apparently means Mezrich had to learn geek-speak, with gems such as, "I'm better at logarithms drunk than sober."
Whatever Mezrich has done to fill in the gaps of the story, the tale is still a legendary one. What began in a Harvard dorm room in 2003 as a way for the socially awkward to meet girls exploded into a networking site with more than 200 million active users in less than six years. When success flows, controversy often follows. Mezrich paints Saverin and a handful of others as instrumental players who were eventually frozen out or stepped over by Zuckerberg, the master coder.
"What happens when the guy standing next to you catches a lightning bolt?" Mezrich writes. "Does it carry you up to the stratosphere along with him? Or do you simply get charred trying to hold on?"
CHECK IT OUT
Say it ain't so
What might happen if the Obama administration fails to revive the economy and the recession lingers — or worse, morphs into a depression? Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, author of eight books including The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, asks that question in the July-August Harvard Business Review. Here's what he imagines as a possible scenario for 2013: a top income- tax rate of 45%; the Standard & Poor's 500 index at 418, where it was in December 1991; unemployment stuck at 12%; a $20 trillion national debt; and Jeb Bush in the White House, after defeating Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination in 2012.
China has way to go
There's no question that China, India and the rest of Asia have made extraordinary economic progress since World War II. But talk of the region soon closing its gap with the West, of China fast eclipsing America's global dominance, is folly. So says Foreign Policy in the July/August edition. "Even at current torrid rates of growth, it will take the average Asian 77 years to reach the income of the average American. The Chinese need 47 years. For Indians, the figure is 123 years."
If you listen to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, his company is David to Google's Goliath. And just like David brought down Goliath with a slingshot, Facebook is devising a slingshot of its own. In July's Wired, reporter Fred Vogelstein details how the 25-year-old CEO and his team are preparing a four-step plan for online domination. To Zuckerberg, the campaign will change the way the Web operates — with Facebook at the center. "Zuckerberg envisions a more personalized, humanized Web, where a network of friends, colleagues, peers and family is the primary source of information, just as it is offline," Vogelstein writes. Zuckerberg sees members turning to their Facebook network for answers, rather than tapping "the cold mathematics of a Google search."
The scoop on e-readers
As some newspapers embrace digital publishing as a way to cut costs, electronic readers are getting serious consideration as a device for delivering content. Two brands dominate: Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony Reader PRS-700BC. In July's Consumer Reports, the rival e-readers slug it out based on seven criteria.
By Gary Rawlins
5 QUESTIONS FOR WOLFGANG GREGOR ON GREEN TECH
By Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY
Wolfgang Gregor, 55, is chief sustainability officer of Osram, a global division of technology developer Siemens. Siemens is known in the U.S. for engineering the Long Island power line and last month announced it would build a new production facility for wind turbines in Kansas. Gregor chats with USA TODAY from headquarters in Munich about Siemens' global role, the development of green technology and investments in infrastructure.
Q: Siemens is involved in many areas of development, including public transportation, computer solutions and health care. What does your company hope to accomplish by investing in such a variety of sectors?
A: Our focus is on the delivery of energy and energy use. However energy is produced, we want to help businesses and people to use it more efficiently.
Q: President Obama is betting that investment in alternative energy, infrastructure and even computerizing health care records will create jobs and help transform the economy. Can it really?
A: The stimulus plan can definitely help create jobs. People are needed to change old energy systems and produce new ones.
At the same time, installing green technology saves businesses, government and taxpayers billions of dollars by reducing demand.
Q: Is there a difference between how Europeans and Americans view so-called green technologies?
A: Historically, yes. Energy prices have always been much lower in the U.S., so Europeans may have been earlier movers toward energy efficiency. For example, 21% of electricity in the U.S. is used for lighting, while in Europe this figure lies at about 15%. This is mainly because the U.S. has been using incandescent lamps to a much greater extent. However, there are many alternatives that offer a great chance for the U.S. The U.S. can make a quantum leap now by installing the most modern technology available today.
Q: Do you see Americans embracing greener technologies and practices in the future?
A: Yes. Green technology is a win-win situation. People save money, it creates new jobs and it saves the environment. No matter what the reason, energy cultures will align more closely between Europe and the U.S. In a matter of years we'll both be using CFL and LED lamps.
Q: Where do you see the greatest potential in green technology investments?
A: Transportation. Not only am I 100% sure President Obama will look more toward public transportation, but most modern energy-saving technology is aimed at drivers. If we continue the trend toward electrically minded drivers, there is a huge potential for energy savings and the reduction of carbon emissions.
WHAT I READ
By Patrice Gaines, Special for USA TODAY
John Oswald, CEO and co-founder of Paul Frank Industries
From its start in a Southern California garage, Paul Frank Industries has grown into a successful design house and retail division. The company collaborates with artists and brands to create entertaining designs for everyday products such as watches, eyewear, home textiles and bicycles.
Three favorite books
Good to Great by Jim Collins offers excellent basic principles on how a company should operate. The Pro: Lessons About Golf and Life from MyFather, Claude Harmon, Sr. by Butch Harmon, one of the top golf coaches in the world. It shows that if you aim at nothing, in golf or life, you're always going to hit it. I have a deep interest in architecture, and Modernism Rediscovered by Pierluigi Serraino and Julius Shulman focuses on one of the greatest times in architecture: the '50s and '60s. It shares through amazing photography from Shulman and simple insight the outstanding contributions to the modern architectural movement.
I enjoy books that focus on overcoming adversity. Books that give real-world experience and street sense are most appealing to me. Determination and conquering adversity are themes in many of the books I read. I enjoy spiritual books that apply to business, plus books about golf and architecture, which are two of my passions.
I am reading Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the LostHeroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell, the only surviving man on a team of four Navy SEALs in Afghanistan. The book deals with the importance of training and gut instincts to get you through the toughest times in life. Again, Good to Great, which offers keys to understanding what your organization can be the best at and, equally important, what it cannot be the best at. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny by Robin Sharma makes you analyze life and think about dreams and goals and how your daily habits can help make your dreams a reality.
Last book given as a gift
Case Study Houses, by Elizabeth A.T. Smith and published by Taschen, is a true gem that documents this Southern California house design program, the Case Study Houses program (1945-66). This book provides a comprehensive documentation of 36 prototype low-cost modern homes built in America that redefined the modern home.
When he reads
Each morning, I read the papers, and every night before bed, I read about golf, business or architecture.