Mandalit del Barco

Fifteen miles past the city limits of Juarez, an insane asylum serves as the last stop for a group of indigent and mentally ill people. It's called Vision en Accion, or Vision in Action, and it sits like a citadel in a filthy desert dotted with dumps and junkyards, in an area haunted by years of violence from the drug cartel wars that claimed more than 11,000 lives.

A few of the asylum's 120 residents live behind bars in tiny, solitary cement cells. You can hear them moaning or screaming at times.

In downtown Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, Nelson Armeto and his brothers run a seafood restaurant called Pisces. Like other businesses owners in Juarez, they met with trouble beginning in 2008, when the drug cartels began demanding a monthly extortion fee.

"We received calls telling us we had to pay a quota, otherwise we'd get the business burned down, or a car passing by would be shooting up the place," he says. "They even threatened kidnapping us and even sometimes killing the employees."

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Performance artist and sculptor Chris Burden died last week of cancer. He was 69. Today, his final completed work opens to the public at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

Soul singer Percy Sledge epitomized Southern soul in ballads like "When A Man Loves A Woman," which became a massive international hit when it came out in 1966. Sledge died Tuesday morning of natural causes in East Baton Rouge, La. He was 74.

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Beasts of No Nation is the story of a West African child who is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters. Actor Idris Elba portrays a brutal warlord who recruits the child soldier.

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The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up last weekend. For more than two decades, the festival and the Sundance Institute have been a springboard for independent filmmakers. This year, two of its darlings — Boyhood and Whiplash — are nominated for an Academy Award in the best picture category.

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When Michele Serros burst onto the literary scene in the 1990s, she was a new kind of Latina writer: She didn't speak much Spanish, she listened to ABBA and she was a vegan who liked to surf and skateboard. Her success as a writer, poet and comedic commentator made her an inspirational voice for Chicanas of her generation and beyond.

Serros, who Newsweek once hailed as a "Woman to Watch for the New Century," died of cancer Sunday at her home in Berkeley, Calif. She was 48 years old.

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Jersson Garcia works at Richard Photo Lab in Hollywood. He's 31 years old, and he's got a total crush on Shirley.

"Beautiful skin tones, beautiful eyes, great hair," he sighs. "She's gorgeous."

Garcia is holding a 4-by-6-inch photo of an ivory-faced brunette wearing a lacy, white, off-the-shoulders top. She has red lipstick and silver earrings, and the photo appears to have been taken sometime in the 1970s or '80s.

The color blue has meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. In medieval times, the Virgin Mary's cloak was often painted a celestial, pure, sacred blue. In the early 1900s, Pablo Picasso created somber blue paintings during a period of depression. The color has been championed by everyone from jazz musician Miles Davis and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell to the theatrical Blue Man Group.

Robert Rodriguez's newest film, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, is about to hit theaters — it's a 3-D crime thriller based on Frank Miller's graphic novel series, laden with booze, broads and bullets.

But Rodriguez has also made comedic spaghetti Westerns, vampire flicks and four Spy Kids movies, about a young brother-sister duo of super sleuths — all from his home base in Austin, Texas.

He has been in and out of Hollywood recently, though, putting the finishing touches on Sin City 2.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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Born Ruby Ann Wallace in the early 1920s in Cleveland, actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee most identified with the part of New York City where she was raised.

"I don't know who I would be if I weren't this child from Harlem, this woman from Harlem. It's in me so deep," Dee told NPR's Tell Me More in 2007.

She died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in New Rochelle, N.Y., surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She was 91.

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Outside the concert hall at Occidental College, in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, children are invited to test out the instruments the Santa Cecilia Orchestra will play later. Alexa Media Rodriguez, 8, says she and her family have never before been to an orchestra concert. She heard about the orchestra when some of the musicians visited her school.

"I brought my dad, my stepmom," she says, "my sister, my brother and my sister's cousin ..."

That's the thing about this orchestra, says conductor Sonia Marie De Leon De Vega: The children are bringing the parents.

Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, died Thursday. He was 87. Garcia Marquez, the master of a style known as magic realism, was and remains Latin America's best-known writer.

His novels were filled with miraculous and enchanting events and characters; love and madness; wars, politics, dreams and death. And everything he had written, Garcia Marquez once said, he knew or heard before he was 8 years old.

A Writer Shaped By His Beginnings

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NPR's business news starts with Hollywood layoffs.

Sony has notified California's Labor Board that come June it will lay off more than 200 employees at its movie and television studios.

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Transcript

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It sometimes feels like church in the auditorium of the Professional Musicians union in Hollywood. It's a Sunday morning, and hundreds of people are gathered to meditate, sing and listen to inspirational poetry and stories.

But then the live band starts up — performing songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jerry Lee Lewis. And instead of a sermon, there's a lecture by experimental psychologist and neuroscientist Jessica Cail about the biology of gender identification and sexual orientation.

This season, Fox Searchlight has served audiences a three-course menu of movies with African-American casts and themes.

First, it served an appetizer in September, with the romantic comedy Baggage Claim, starring Paula Patton as a flight attendant looking for a husband in a hurry.

Then, in October, the studio set out a substantial main course with 12 Years A Slave. The sweeping epic by director Steve McQueen is already an Academy Award shoo-in.

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