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Mandalit del Barco

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.

This weekend, moviegoers will return to a legendary fictional landscape, ravaged by war and desperate for water. Mad Max: Fury Road reunites the Road Warrior with original writer and director George Miller. And this time, Max is joined by some very powerful women.

On Monday, HBO will air Tales of the Grim Sleeper, a documentary about a series of serial killings in South Central Los Angeles that took place from 1985 to 2002. A suspect was arrested in 2010. All these years later, the man accused of the crimes remains in jail and has yet to go on trial. But he — and the L.A. police department — are indicted in this film.

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And the mission of journalism was celebrated again yesterday. The annual Pulitzer Prizes went to journalists at newspapers both large and small. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has more on three stories that stood out.

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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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Well, let's talk about Disney then. This weekend, it's looking to cast a spell with a new live-action version of its classic "Cinderella."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CINDERELLA")

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The German architect Frei Otto has been named the 2015 winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The announcement was made nearly two weeks early because Mr. Otto died on Monday - he was 89. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this profile.

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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It's not easy to get financing for independent films. And it's not easy to get them into movie theaters. But over the past few decades, John Sloss has succeeded in doing both, and has been a key player for indie filmmakers. He's an entertainment lawyer, a talent manager, a film sales agent and a producer of films including Boys Don't Cry, The Fog of War and Boyhood, which is up for a best picture Oscar on Sunday.

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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Marvel Comics has provided some of Hollywood's biggest box-office characters ever: The Avengers, the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Spider-Man, all starring in gargantuan special effects blockbusters.

And like every superhero, Marvel Comics has an origin story. It begins in New York City, in 1939.

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.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) — a holiday that celebrates those who have passed — will come alive this Thursday in the movie The Book of Life. It is director and animator Jorge Gutiérrez's first feature film, and he says it's his own take on what happens after death.

Set in the 1920s in Mexico, the animated movie centers on the fiery and brave Maria Posada (voiced by Zoe Saldana), and her two suitors: the handsome town hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and the soft-spoken Manolo (Diego Luna), who comes from a long line of bullfighters.

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.

Motorcycles provide an open road for literature — literally and figuratively. They're sometimes the dramatic device writers use to talk about many things: adventure, rebellion, even inner peace. But motorcycles aren't just a metaphor at Bartel's Harley-Davidson shop in Marina Del Rey, Calif. They're loud and shiny and very real.

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

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Jimmy Scott died this week. The jazz balladeer died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88. His ethereal contralto influenced countless singers, men and women. But his career was a series of up, downs and finally, ups, as NPR's Mandalit del Barco explains.

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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