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Last year I spoke by phone with a frustrated woman in Santiago, Cuba, who was trying to start a seamstress business. It’s the sort of small private enterprise that Cuban leader Raúl Castro claims to be encouraging as part of free-market reforms meant to salvage the island’s threadbare, communist economy. (But don’t dare say Raúl is copying China’s communist-capitalist system. That makes him mad.)

Adam Bouska via twitter.com/RepDWStweets

10/23/13 - Wednesday’s Topical Currents is with South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  She chairs the Democratic National Committee. She’s served in the U.S. House nine years and has written FOR THE NEXT GENERATION:  A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation’s ProblemsWasserman Schultz’s district covers portions of Broward and Miami-Dade, including Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach. She’s the mother of three, and is a breast cancer survivor. Tune in for Topical Currents Wednesday at 1pm on WLRN.    

Cuba will end the two-currency system it has used for nearly 20 years. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has used either American currency or a peso that's pegged to the dollar alongside its national peso.

The monetary unification will phase out a system that has become a symbol of exclusivity and foreign wealth. Many products that are imported into the country can be bought only with the dollar-based convertible peso. But most Cubans are paid in the standard peso, which is worth just a fraction of the other currency.

When it finally came out Tuesday, the September jobs report — delayed for 18 days by the government shutdown — showed a labor market moving forward. But the pace was slow enough to prompt many economists to view it as a letdown.

Job growth "is disappointing, given that employment is still down by about 1.8 million from its peak prior to the recession," Gus Faucher, senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group, said in his analysis.

Broward County and Palm Beach’s unemployment rates are dropping faster than it is in any other major metropolitan area, according to a new federal report.

For August, the most recent month with updated federal data, the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area saw unemployment plunge to 5.8 percent from 7.7 percent a year before. according to data released Monday. Palm Beach also saw a drop of nearly two percentage points (from 9.7 percent to 8.4 percent), ending Seattle’s six-month run atop the list produced each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

C.W. Griffin / Miami Herald Staff

Arriving in South Florida, visitors from Spain might feel as if they’ve never left the Iberian Peninsula.

Talk to economists about the government shutdown's impact on their forecasts and you'll hear this phrase again and again:

Flying blind.

For economists and investors, "at this moment, we are flying blind," said Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and now president of Greenspan Associates LLC, a consulting firm.

Greenspan is not alone in feeling a little lost without the compass of government reports.

Port Everglades On Florida's Short List For $35M In Investment Upgrades

Oct 17, 2013
Ed Webster/Flickr

Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and the Port of Tampa are in line to receive $35 million next year to expand their facilities through a state program for strategic port investments.

As part of an effort to position the state's 15 seaports as a single global shipping hub, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he will recommend that the Legislature allocate the money to the projects. The announcement came during an appearance at the American Association of PortAuthorities convention in Orlando.

Bringing to an end an episode that once again exposed Washington gridlock at its worst, the House approved a Senate deal that will end a 16-day federal government shutdown and avert the first government default in U.S. history.

The 285-144 vote came at the eleventh hour, after weeks of partisan bickering and a very public airing of deep divisions within the Republican party. President Obama signed the bill into law after midnight Thursday.

U.S. Federal Reserve / Truth In Accounting

The debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling was focused on the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit. That's a huge number that has been increasing rapidly since the Great Recession. The chart above from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows the federally reported public debt jumping from $6 trillion after the 2001 recession to almost $17 trillion this fall.  

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