First Monday: What's coming up in February


Feb. 6 The Labor Department's monthly employment report is out, telling how bad January's job cuts were.

Feb. 12 The government's retail sales report will signal how much consumers are cutting back this year.

Feb. 16 Presidents Day. The deadline set by President Obama for Congress to pass his economic stimulus package.

Feb. 17 Chrysler reveals to the U.S. Treasury how it can be viable, to get $3 billion more in taxpayer money. Final review is March 31.

Feb. 19 President Obama visits Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Buy American" provisions in the stimulus package may make the president's first trip abroad less cordial.

Feb. 20 The consumer price index comes out, and economists will comb it for signs of deflation.


'Black Enterprise' Top 100

Managing a large business through the USA's worst recession in decades will surely test business leaders. Black Enterprise spotlights some in its "100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America" report in the February issue. Among the 22 black women in BE's 100 is Adriane Brown, CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems, who believes the true test of leadership comes when market conditions are changing rapidly. "One of my greatest pleasures is seeing a customer recognize our team for accomplishing something that was once thought to be near impossible," she tells BE.

Euphoria's bad end

Bubbles bursting everywhere is the theme of a five-piece article in the January-February edition of Foreign Policy magazine. Five economists whose "prophetic warnings went unheeded" paint a gloomy picture of what's ahead for the global economy. Cascading traumas that started with the subprime mortgage crisis have extended beyond housing to encompass credit cards, auto loans and student loans, writes Columbia University's Nouriel Roubini in the lead article. Taken together, Roubini says, bursting bubbles have amounted to the biggest asset and credit bubble in human history.

'Seniority matters' this time

Older staffers are being spared so far in this recession, despite their higher salaries and medical costs. Unlike some previous downturns, younger workers are taking the hit. BusinessWeek reports in its Feb. 9 edition that many companies are picking and choosing who to cut so they don't lose experienced hands to voluntary buyouts. In fact, it says, the number of people age 55 and older with jobs rose nearly 900,000 from the start of the recession in December 2007 through last year. "Seniority matters," says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, who runs Boston College's Sloan Center on Aging & Work. That's a big change from the last serious recession, in 1990-91, when older workers, especially in manufacturing, were hit hard.

A tall seawater — no salt

With freshwater supplies shrinking, desalinating seawater could some day be a big business. The USA's desal industry has long been constrained by high costs, but technological advances "have recently brought it to a competitive brink," writes Jeff Hull in the February issue of Fast Company. The world market is now about $11 billion and is expected to hit $126 billion by 2015.


At the movies:The InternationalFeb. 13. Rated R. Columbia Pictures

As if the financial industry didn't have enough bad buzz, along comes a rousing and riveting thriller starring Clive Owen as an Interpol agent hell-bent on exposing the nefarious deeds of a corrupt international bank based in Luxembourg.

In the movie, the fictional IBBC brokers weapons, finances coups and arranges an assassination, all while taking advantage of the complexities of international law and ducking regulatory review. In real life, a bank called BCCI was shut down in 1991 after being accused of similar offenses, a scandal the producers of The International say provided a springboard for the movie's script.

"We were treading on ground that had its basis in reality," producer Charles Roven says. "The events that have transpired since the film was shot would prove that regulatory review is complicated, clearly, at its best, and sometimes is insufficient at its worst."

Vigorously and vibrantly directed by Tom Tykwer, The International lives up to its name with stunning scenes set in exotic Milan and Istanbul and a pivotal shootout that annihilates the inside of New York's Guggenheim Museum.

On DVD:Flash of GeniusUniversal Studios Home Entertainment, Feb. 17. $29.98

Based on a true story, Greg Kinnear plays Robert Kearns, an engineering professor who invented the intermittent windshield wiper around the time Detroit's automakers were fruitlessly trying to do the same thing.

In the movie, Kearns is abruptly cut out of a deal with Ford Motor. He then accuses Ford of copying his design. The ensuing legal battle, which Kearns wins and is awarded millions, lasts for years and takes a toll on the engineer's mental health and family.

Though it failed to make much of a dent at the box office in the fall, Flash of Genius has the makings of a fine rental: a quiet, David vs. Goliath drama suitable for family viewing that loses nothing in the transfer to the small screen.

On the radio:Debt of Service: Personal Finance in the Military'Marketplace Money,' produced by American Public Media, Feb. 21 or 22 (check for listings or to listen to podcast).

Marketplace Money, the entertaining weekend radio program that says it looks at stories that affect the average listener's wallet, plans to devote an entire show to the personal-finance problems of soldiers and sailors.

Among topics host Tess Vigeland will cover: the financial impact on families of wounded soldiers, the negative effect constant relocation has on the salaries of military spouses, the challenges faced by reservists who run small businesses, a counseling program that assigns an onboard command finance specialist for every 75 sailors, and an essay by Jarhead author Anthony Swofford.

Military personnel face some of the same problems in the current economy as civilians, Vigeland says. The one thing they don't have to worry about is losing their jobs.

"The economy actually has sparked an increase in people who are signing up for service as a job," Vigeland says. "The likelihood of getting laid off is not very high in the military."

On TV:Frontline: Inside the MeltdownPBS, Feb. 17, 9 p.m. ET (check local listings or

Writer/director Michael Kirk crisply packages the dramatic events of the current economic crisis with a verbal timeline — from the Bear Stearns deal to Lehman Bros.' downfall to the $700 billion bailout package — made up of quotes from lawmakers, journalists and corporate insiders.

The illuminating and sobering hour also focuses on the unprecedented steps taken by then-Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to control the carnage.

It's a bit like being a fly on the wall, with snippets such as Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., describing an emergency meeting at the Capitol with Paulson, Bernanke and congressional leaders. "And sitting in that room," Dodd recalls, "with Hank Paulson saying to us in very measured tones — no hyperbole, no excessive adjectives — that unless you act, the financial system of this country and the world will melt down in a matter of days."

Newbos: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass CNBC, Feb. 24, 9 p.m. ET

After reading all the negative statistics on the incarceration rates of young black men, wealth disparity and black-on-black male homicide, Wall Street Journal/CNBC correspondent Lee Hawkins says he was inspired to sit down with what he calls "newbos," self-made, young black billionaires and multimillionaires who have built wealth and influence in the sports, entertainment, and media fields.

"I started to get very curious about how much money these individuals are really amassing," Hawkins says, "and what can happen if they start to really think critically about the implications of that wealth and start to pool their resources and give back to the community."

Among those making appearances in Hawkins' one-hour documentary, and in a book out in June, are NBA star LeBron James, music and fashion mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, NFL star Terrell Owens and Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson.


C-SPAN2's Book TV3 p.m. ET, Feb. 15:

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity by Matt Miller (Times Books, $25). The Fortune contributing editor pushes for reinvention of American capitalism through the shedding of old-fashioned notions, such as that employers should be responsible for health coverage.


By Byron Acohido, USA TODAY

John Stewart has experience as a software developer, chief security officer and research scientist in emerging technologies. He has served on advisory boards of several security firms and as a tech adviser for Panorama Venture Capital. He is now vice president and chief security officer at Cisco Systems, the networking hardware giant.

He says the federal government needs to take charge and encourage collaboration to make the Internet safer.

Q: How much should the average person really be concerned about cyberthreats?

A: In my opinion, more than we are. The Internet is a fantastic tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or not. We owe it to ourselves to be educated.

Q: Should this be more than an individual concern? How does this affect our country?

A: Definitely. It's not really easy to see. Our country and other countries rely on technology in our day-to-day lives and will increasingly. To that end, we, as citizens, need to ensure it is well protected.

Q: Why haven't the telecoms and tech companies — the folks who supply the Internet's infrastructure (such as Cisco) — done more to slow cyberattacks?

A: Many companies, ours included, are already slowing attacks. I think the key question is: Is it enough? This isn't a technology question alone. It's an education question — what are the risks, how do I avoid them? It's a process question — who is in charge and what is our country's strategy? Add the question, how we can stop some of the activity with law enforcement? My answer is a need for national doctrine and international cooperation at unprecedented levels.

Q: Is it time for the good guys to make a sea change?

A: While there are many smart, dedicated people doing a lot of good, there are two areas of change we could benefit from. First, new and enhanced security technology must be implemented to combat the more sophisticated threats, as was recommended by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) report, "Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency." Second, we need very clear national operational expertise, with a clear decision-making process, to avoid the "who is in charge?" question. That remains a bit gray today.

Q: How can President Obama help?

A: The most important thing any president can do is make this a key priority and a central theme of national policy. President Obama can invite expert dialogue by continuing to highlight this, by appointing advisers with expertise to senior positions, and by listening to the CSIS commission and others that know and care about the topic. Essentially, we need to have an open dialogue about the risks we face, and have industry and government work together in a collaborative way on how to meet these challenges.


By Patrice Gaines, Special for USA TODAY

As president and chief executive for the HSC Foundation, Thomas Chapman directs the foundation's subsidiaries: the HSC Pediatric Center (formerly the Hospital for Sick Children) and Health Services for Children with Special Needs Inc. (HSCSN), a care-coordination health plan.

He is the author of Management Learning Experiences of CEOs, which explores the challenges of being top executive.

His three favorite books

Ulysses S. Grant on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Front Lines by John A. Barnes. It highlights the value of unorthodox talents and skills learned from lifetimes of hard-learned experiences. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It reflects raw courage and keen insight by a presidential leader thought least likely to be elected or to succeed. The Practice of Management by Peter F. Drucker is an oldie but goodie. It presents the fundamental building blocks of management. Published in 1954, it became the conceptual and intellectual foundation of many other management best sellers.

A favorite genre

I find value in fiction and non-fiction works. They are often incredibly similar in value and knowledge. Historical works are especially valuable, since we are always recycling problems and past mistakes. It is valuable to see what worked and failed retrospectively.

Last book given as a gift

Building Better Boards: A Blueprint for Effective Governance by David A. Nadler, Beverly Behan, Mark Nadler and Jay W. Lorsch. It is excellent for rethinking efficient governance in a complex and rapidly changing environment.

Last book received as a gift

Health Care Reform Now! A Prescription for Change by George C. Halvorson. It provides great insight to the segments of our system that need repair or replacement, and is a blueprint for building America's future health system.

Must-read publications for his business

The Economist, BusinessWeek, Modern Healthcare, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Business Journal.

When he reads

Anytime, but a lot on airplanes.

His love for books comes from …

My parents encouraged reading, and my elementary school teachers cultivated my love for books. Early childhood development makes the difference.