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.

Peru shamans' 2009 predictions

Peru shamansPeruvian shamans met at Lima's highest point on Sunday to perform a ceremony which they believe will help protect the spirits of world leaders in 2009.

Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama were among those leaders chosen to receive special attention.

It was predicted that President-elect Obama would have a good start to 2009, but that Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez would have a "quite a bit of desperation" this year.

Despite lacking world leader status, Michael Jackson also received special note with healers saying "he would get stronger" in the coming year.

Like A Charm

Like A CharmBolivian shaman Carmen Acho performs a traditional purification ritual holding a Quirquincho, a three-banded armadillo, over a patient's head in Lima, Peru, on Monday. According to the shaman, the ritual cleans the participant of evil spirits and brings good luck for the new year.

Patagonia Indian tribe faces extinction

Patagonia Indian tribe faces extinctionHawking sea lion skin souvenir canoes at one of South America's most remote outposts, Francisco Arroyo is among the last members of a Patagonian tribe staring down the barrel of extinction.