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SPOTLIGHT

1. RISK

National Flood insurance Program -- a mighty engine that couldn't

The floodwaters of Superstorm Sandy amounted to a proverbial black swan event whose sudden, shocking appearance made many private insurance firms reach for their shotguns. Defenses against the unlikely swan -- a metaphor for a disastrous event believed to be possible but highly improbable -- include socking away cash reserves, in the billions, to pay off claims made by policyholders. But after operating for nearly 40 years without encountering a black swan, the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program got hit with its second in seven years when Superstorm Sandy drained the funding it derives from 5.6 million policyholders nationwide.

2. AGRICULTURE

Using satellites, researchers pinpoint Chicago's backyard food production

Food security may be less of an issue for urban dwellers than previously thought. Take the case of 70-year-old Andy Hoi-Csiu Chan. He tends bamboo, peonies, watermelon, eggplants and other vegetables in his Chicago backyard. Chan, an immigrant from China who teaches traditional brush painting at his Chinatown studio, started his garden about 12 years ago. Chan is a member of a significant and previously undocumented population of Chicago urban farmers. Though Chan said he wasn't aware of it, researchers at the University of Illinois recently discovered that many of his neighbors, especially those of Chinese origin, are also enjoying the fruits and vegetables of backyard gardening.

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