Fresh air in Mexico City
The air pollution in Mexico City was once so bad that birds dropped dead while flying and children used brown crayons to draw pictures of the sky. But in recent years, the sprawling metropolis has enacted tough environmental standards, curbed driving, and aggressively promoted mass transit. As a result, its 20 million residents are breathing much easier. Compared with the early 1990s, lead levels in Mexico City are down 95 percent, sulfur dioxide is down 86 percent, and carbon monoxide, 74 percent. “There has been a large improvement,” said Nobel Prize­–winning Mexican chemist Mario Molina, “and it’s important to show it can be done.”

The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings
A California woman has discovered a rare baseball card of the first all-professional team in the United States. When Bernice Gallego of Fresno found the sepia-toned, gelatin-silver photographic print in her antiques shop, she put it up for auction on eBay for $10. But she quickly took it down when a friend informed her that the card depicted the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, which recorded an undefeated season that year. Experts say the card could be worth up to $20,000. “I didn’t even know baseball existed that far back,” said Gallego. “I don’t think that I’ve ever been to a baseball game.”

Marching in the inaugural parade
When the Blue Eagles of South Cobb High School in impoverished Austell, Ga., were selected as one of about 90 marching bands nationwide to participate in Barack Obama’s inaugural parade, their elation quickly turned to apprehension. How would they come up with the $85,000 to transport them and their equipment to Washington and back? But their fears proved groundless as dozens of companies and thousands of individuals from as far away as California and Arizona donated nearly $130,000 to their cause, which was promoted by local media. “It is the best year ever,” said trombonist Kevon Radford. “I can’t wait.”