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Monday's Daily Pulse

Businesses barter for health care

Looking for ways to help employees cover health-care costs, more Central Florida businesses are turning to bartering and trading goods and services for medical care. "It's perfect for a small business that has a handful of employees and can't afford a major medical plan," said Nicole Graham, a senior trade director for Trade International Exchange, a Miami-based bartering company. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

See also:
» Under Affordable Care Act, States Plan Medicaid Alternatives
» Managed-care firms prepare to cash in on Medicaid overhaul
» No simple procedure: Putting Affordable Care Act into practice
» Changes could help Florida improve rural health care

Possible Florida solution for graduation ‘bottleneck’: Diploma lite

State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would let students pick from three different diploma designations, each with its own set of graduation requirements. One would be designed for students planning to go directly into the workforce. College-bound teenagers would have their own pathway, as would high-achievers with post-graduate studies in mind. [Source: Miami Herald]

Pay by phone technology raises privacy, security concerns

Your smart phone already serves as a portable office, media player, newspaper, GPS, camera and social network hub. Now it can replace your wallet, too. In fact, the technology already exists to let you buy a grande soy latte through your phone, simply by saying your name out loud at the register. [Source: McClatchy]

Is there an economic case for ending all guest worker programs?

Employers and workers’ advocates alike are calling for reforms to the temporary guest worker programs that allow seasonal farm workers and others to come work in the U.S. for parts of the year. But some observers are proposing a different economic argument: abolishing guest worker programs altogether. [Source: LA Times]

Concerns over unintended consequences of Florida's gaming crackdown

Bingo is safe. So are old-school arcade games and charity raffles. But while the intention is to crack down on storefront gaming centers, there are some concerns that a proposed ban on Internet cafes could be casting a wider net than originally intended. [Source: Naples Daily News]


› Theater is linchpin of Bradenton downtown revival
The multimillion-dollar home for the Manatee Players caps off a string of new developments near downtown Bradenton that many officials and merchants believe can lift the community out of its slump.
» Related: Curtain up, at last, for Manatee Players

› Soaring e-book demand strains Central Florida library budgets
A growing number of Central Florida readers are depending on their public libraries to fuel their consumption of e-books, downloadable audiobooks and other digital media. At the same time, librarians across the Orlando area are scrambling to meet that increasing demand while facing rising e-book costs and budget cuts.

› South Florida's first gay retirement home paving the way
Tom Duffy, a retired catering business owner, converted what once was a small Wilton Manors assisted living facility to create his dream: Secret Garden, an independent living center where gay men can be themselves as they age. "I want it to be like a family, more like a commune, I guess," said Duffy, 61, who lives on the property and has been interviewing prospective residents in the past two weeks.

› Binge drinking and joblessness
South Miami Recovery — an outpatient treatment center for substance abuse — has seen an increase in patients who say their alcohol consumption has become a problem since the start of the recession, according to the center’s director Howard Lerner.

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› Auctions survive high tech, low economy
As Titusville auctioneer Cliff Shuler spanned the crowd of hundreds milling through the long aisles of merchandise he was selling at his auction last Sunday, he put on hold his 36 years of auctioning experience and then pondered. “It’s just crazy here, isn’t it?” Shuler said of Cliff Shuler Auctioners and Liquidators. “And these people are hard core.” “Crazy” might also be a way Shuler could describe how well his auction business is doing.

› Analysts: Worst is over for Darden?
Have things gotten as bad as they're going to get for Darden Restaurants? After two quarters of falling profit, the Orlando-based company's performance should improve slowly as the casual-dining industry recovers from a bleak winter, some analysts say.

› Blackstone, other investors snap up thousands of Tampa Bay rental homes
Bad credit, ravaged savings and evolving attitudes are driving more Americans to rent houses, and big-money investors are waging war to win their business. Few are mightier than the Blackstone Group, which dropped $150 million to buy 1,000 Tampa Bay homes — in just the last six months.

› CEO’s focus on business loans helps Gulfstream weather storms
As its Treasure Coast rivals sank or took on water, Gulfstream Business Bank weathered the Great Recession with only modest damage. True, the Stuart-based bank posted $3.3 million in red ink for 2009. But after that blip, Gulfstream Business Bank quickly returned to profitability.