The Week in Good News

Dec 15, 2017 by

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“It is enough just to see her,” the mother of a 5-year-old who had an aggressive form of brain cancer said about Zia Caterina. “Her hug is everything to me.” Credit Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times

Sometimes it seems as if we’re living under a constant barrage of heavy news. But it isn’t all bad out there. This feature is meant to send you into the weekend with a smile, or at least a lighter heart.

Here are seven great things we wrote about this week:

1. A woman in Florence gives free taxi rides to the hospital to children with cancer.

She is known as Zia Caterina (or Auntie Caterina), and she drives a taxi called Milano 25. This is no ordinary cab — it’s as colorful as its owner, with a car horn that plays “La Cucaracha.” Its 52-year-old driver (whose real name is Caterina Bellandi) has a style reminiscent of Mary Poppins, complete with bright cloak and flower-filled hat. Her goal is to give sick children an extra bit of sunshine in their lives.

“My children may be sick, but they can and have to be happy,” she said.

Ms. Bellandi isn’t just a taxi driver. She also visits ill children at their homes, and arranges vacations and outings for them. She has even taken some as far as the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. Read more »

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Ben Platt with a surfboard at a park in Corpus Christi, Tex. Credit Courtney Sacco/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, via Associated Press

2. Corpus Christi, Tex., got snow for the first time since 2004, and children loved it.

One inch of snow was recorded at the Corpus Christi International Airport, with up to seven inches south of the city — a delight for children who very rarely see such a thing in this part of Texas.

“My mom has been to places like Chicago and Washington, D.C., when it’s snowing, and she would tell me about it and I wish I could be there to see it,” Vincent Rivera, 10, said. He called the rare snowfall a “pretty cool experience.” Read more »

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Enjoying the beach. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

3. An aging Chinese population is finding fun and sun in China’s Florida.

Every winter, hundreds of thousands of Chinese retirees escape the bone-chilling weather of the north and flock to Sanya, a city in southern China that sports white-sand beaches, palm trees and seaside dancing.

Gabriel García Márquez in an undated photo. Some 27,000 page scans of his work have been digitized. Credit Associated Press

4. About half of Gabriel García Márquez’s archive is now free online (in English and Spanish).

He was one of the most important authors of the 20th century and Latin America’s foremost novelist. A huge chunk of his work is now free to anyone with an internet connection. The collection includes “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” as well as previously unseen manuscripts, notebooks and scrapbooks. Read more »

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Barely a year out of drama school, Jamael Westman was cast in the title role of “Hamilton” in London. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

5. A 25-year-old fresh out of drama school was cast as Hamilton in London’s West End production.

It’s only the third role on the résumé of Jamael Westman, a Londoner who spent his childhood in Brixton, a neighborhood that, like Alexander Hamilton himself, has strong Caribbean ties. Mr. Westman didn’t think he had a chance at the role but he auditioned anyway.

“I just kind of wrote myself off,” he said.

Mr. Westman found out he won the coveted part during a trip to New York. Hours afterward, he saw “Hamilton” on Broadway for the first time. He says he bawled his eyes out. Read more »

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Bo, a retired lab chimp, looked around his new home. Credit Melissa Golden for The New York Times

6. The era of biomedical research on chimps is effectively over.

The nearly 100-year history of experimentation on chimpanzees in the United States seems to be at an end. The government chimps are being moved — albeit slowly — to sanctuaries where they will be able to live out their days together in peace, with room to roam.

In 2011, the director of the National Institutes of Health declared that it would fund no new biomedical research using chimps, which he described as “our closest relatives in the animal kingdom,” deserving of “special consideration and respect.”

The sanctuaries hope eventually to put themselves out of business. If all goes as planned, in another 50 years or so, there will be no more chimp retirees. Read more »

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Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger-turned-warrior. Credit Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

7. The latest installment of “Star Wars” gets a thumbs-up from our critic.

“Star Wars” fans, rejoice! Manohla Dargis calls “The Last Jedi” a “satisfying, at times transporting entertainment.” Come to see what happens to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Stay for the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, “who delivers a startlingly raw performance”). Carrie Fisher, who died last December, plays a critical role as General Leia Organa.

Beware: There are some mild spoilers in the review, so read at your peril. Read more »

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