Optimism over Obama expressed around the globe

Optimism over Obama expressed around the globeA dozen faith healers danced, shook rattles, blew smoke and chanted the new president's name while throwing flower petals and coca leaves at his photograph. The Andean ritual is known as Jatun Sonjo, or "Big Heart," in the Quechua language. "In ancient times, it was one of the rituals dedicated to Inca and pre-Inca rulers," lead shaman Juan Osco said. "Today we dedicate it from Peru to Obama because he is the first black president and his heart is big for the whole world."

One Green Year: What You Can Do Today

One Green Year: What You Can Do TodayYou could decide to lose weight—again—or this year you could resolve to lighten the load you leave on the planet. To help, we’ve outlined a series of small changes that add up to big results and divvied them up by time frame—tasks you can complete today, in the next week, during the next month and over the course of the next year. Breaking your efforts into smaller, more manageable tasks isn’t a cop-out: By following this plan, each small step adds up to changes that will benefit the health of the planet—and, yes, even your own health—immediately and in years to come.

Seasonal Shamanistic Ritual Greets New Year

Seasonal Shamanistic Ritual Greets New YearTraditionally, people in Hwanghae Province, now part of North Korea used to hold a shamanistic ritual at home to pray for a good harvest and peace and pay respect to their ancestors every first month of the year.

Called ``cheolmurigut'' or ``jaesugut'' usually performed in the region from Jan. 1 to 15, the ritual was thought of as a seasonal feast that all participants could join in.

A Hmong big-screen debut

A Hmong big-screen debutWe haven't often seen the words "Hmong" and "Hollywood" in the same sentence -- until this week.

"Gran Torino," which opens today in the Twin Cities, is the first major-studio film to feature several prominent roles for Hmong actors, including some with Twin Cities ties. With heavyweight Clint Eastwood as both director and star, the film is sure to draw national attention to an ethnic group well-known in Minnesota, but not all parts of the country.

A Solstice Tribute, Shorter Than the Day Is Long

A Solstice Tribute, Shorter Than the Day Is LongSunday morning was a nasty time to be out and about in New York, with cold rain falling hard, but the predawn hours were worse. Sleet was blowing at just the right angle to find its way into tightly drawn hoods and mittens, and yet 17 people got out of bed anyway, all with the same thought:

“I shall go stand in the middle of an intersection in Brooklyn and bang on a drum.”

The occasion was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It was a moment of great importance to ancient pagans, and to a set of spiritually inclined people intent on connecting with Mother Earth through the asphalt of New York.