New York art students mold clay into faces of city's nameless

NEW YORK When Amy Pekal signed up for the New York Academy of Art to hone her skills as a sculptor, she never thought she would end up assisting in a police investigation.Yet the 22-year-old student from Brooklyn and about a dozen of her classmates are doing just that by helping anthropologists at New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner identify nameless corpses that have gone unclaimed, sometimes for decades.The students participated earlier this year in a five-day forensic sculpture workshop where they used clay to reconstruct faces from the remains of a few of the medical examiner's backlog of about 1,200 cases. "Because of my skill and craft, I'm able to make a job for somebody else easier," Pekal said.The hope is that the sculptures will help families claim the remains of their loved ones and bring them closure. In cases where the cause of death was deemed to be criminal, an identification could help prosecutors find justice for the victims.Pekal, who reconstructed the face of a man found in the trunk of an impounded car in the early 1990s, said it was a humbling experience to give "identity back to somebody." "This person was forgotten," she said. While the medical examiner's office has used police sketch artists for years to help with identifications, the collaboration with the New York Academy of Art is the first time it has turned to art students.Founded in 1982, the small graduate school is known for teaching the techniques of Leonardo da Vinci and other old masters who used anatomical studies to perfect their craft. At the school's Lower Manhattan studios, it is not uncommon to see live horses, kangaroos and other animals serving as models for the students.ANATOMICAL DETAILS This is the second year the school has offered the forensic workshop. Students reconstruct the faces of about two dozen people using 3D images of skulls and the few facts available about ethnicity, sex, age and the like. In modeling the clay, they also draw on their knowledge of tissue depth and other anatomical details.But they are told not to be too creative."It's a close enough resemblance so that someone can go, 'Hey, that kind of looks like so-and-so,'" said John Volk, the school's director of continuing education. The partnership arose from a discussion between Bradley Adams, the medical examiner's director of anthropology, and Joe Mullins, a forensic imaging specialist who is the workshop's instructor.At first, the project looked to be out of the question because it was impractical for the art students to use actual human remains being studied at the medical examiner's anthropology laboratory, which is also in Lower Manhattan. That changed when the office acquired a 3D printer with the help of a federal grant.So far, the office has not cracked any cases as a direct result of the workshop, Adams said, but a student's sculpture has helped a relative recognize someone who had already been identified.That said, there is a strong chance the reconstruction of the face of a woman believed to have been missing since 1998 could result in a positive identification once DNA work is completed, Adams said.Meanwhile, photographs of the sculptures, which are kept at the examiner's office, have been posted online to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. (Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn)

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Cotillard inspired by director's 'wildness' in Mal de Pierres

CANNES, France Academy Award winning actress Marion Cotillard says the inspiration for her portrayal of the heroine, Gabrielle, in "Mal de Pierres" was the wildness and "fire" of director, Nicole Garcia.The film - also billed as "From the Land of the Moon" - premieres at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday and is one of 21 movies in competition for the Palme d'Or prize. Cotillard, who won an Oscar in 2008 for playing Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose", says of Garcia: "I was very inspired by Nicole, she carries in her this fire, this passion, this wildness that Gabrielle carries. That was my first source of inspiration." "She manages not to be what people would want her to be," the 40-year-old told Reuters in an interview on Sunday. Cotillard stars as a young woman in post World War Two France, driven by her desire to find love but married off by her parents to Spanish farmer Jose, played by Alex Brendemuehl.She sees her chance to escape the confines of her life with Jose when she meets Indochinese war veteran, Andre, played by Louis Garrel. Adapted from Milena Agus's 2006 novel "Mal di Pietre", Cotillard and Garcia had discussed making the book into a film several years ago, but had to wait while Cotillard fulfilled other work commitments. She starred in five films last year and will feature at least in four in 2016. "Marion was just the right person for the role," Garcia told a news conference. "I don't know who else could have portrayed this character, it's only Marion who conveys this sensuality, my feeling is that her body is so expressive."Garcia last presented a film - "Charlie Says" - at Cannes in 2006 and her only previous entry was "The Adversary" in 2002. (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Ukraine recovers 17 paintings stolen from Verona museum

KIEV Ukraine has recovered 17 paintings, including works by Peter Paul Rubens and Tintoretto, stolen by armed robbers from the Castelvecchio museum in Verona last year, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday. Ukrainian authorities will now invite Italian experts to authenticate the paintings -- which have an estimated value of more than 16 million euros ($18.3 million) -- and prepare for them to be handed back, his office said in a statement.Footage released by the president's office showed Ukrainian border guards unwrapping the paintings, which had been covered with plastic sheets.The art works were found about 1.5 km (1 mile) from the border with Moldova, the statement said, without elaborating. The paintings were stolen on Nov. 19 by thieves who acted just after the Verona museum's 11 staff had left but before a remote alarm system with the police station was activated. They tied up the museum cashier and forced an armed guard to hand over keys to his car, which they used to get away. The robbery prompted recriminations in Italy over the lack of security at the museum, which some critics blamed on public spending cuts.Poroshenko, whose government needs to convince its Western backers that it is serious about tackling corruption, said recovering the paintings was a measure of what Ukraine was capable of. "Today, this brilliant operation reminds the world about the efficient struggle of Ukraine against smuggling and corruption, inter alia, smuggling of works of art," Poroshenko said.Last month Ukrainian security services recovered four Dutch masterpieces, dating from the country's 17th-century Golden Age, more than 10 years after they were snatched from a museum in the Netherlands. (Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Michelle Obama helps Prince Harry launch second Invictus Games

ORLANDO, Florida Britain's Prince Harry and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama mixed with headline acts from music and film to launch the second edition of the Invictus Games for wounded military personnel on Sunday.British singers James Blunt and Laura Wright performed at the two-hour ceremony before Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman led the crowd at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Champion Stadium in reciting the Invictus Games pledge.Former U.S. President George W Bush, the honorary chairman of this year’s Games, also spoke on stage to the near 500 athletes from 14 different countries who will compete over four days from Monday in 11 Paralympic sports.Harry, who started the Games two years ago in London, paid tribute to the courage of the athletes, who paraded through an interactive 3-D cube decorated in their country's colors to warm applause. "When we give a standing ovation to the competitor with the missing limbs, let's also cheer our hearts out for the man who overcame anxiety so severe he couldn't leave his house," the 31-year-old royal told the crowd. "Let's cheer for the woman who fought through post-traumatic stress." That spirit was echoed by Obama, who thanked U.S. veterans for their service. "I'm here and honor all of you: our extraordinary service members, our veterans, and of course our military families. You all are amazing. Truly amazing," she said. (Reporting by Gavino Garay. Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore. Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Canada hopes cooler weather aids battle with Alberta wildfire

LAC LA BICHE, Alberta Canadian firefighters looked to cooler weather on Monday to help with their battle against the country's most destructive wildfire in recent memory, as officials sought to gauge the damage to oil sands boomtown Fort McMurray.The fire, which started on May 1, spread so quickly that the community's 88,000 inhabitants barely had time to leave and whole neighborhoods were destroyed."This is great firefighting weather, we can really get in here and get a handle on this fire, and really get a death grip on it," Alberta fire official Chad Morrison said on Sunday.The wildfire scorching through Canada's oil sands region in northeast Alberta had been expected to double in size on Sunday, but light rains and cooler temperatures helped hold it back.The temperature, which reached a high of 17 C (63°F) on Sunday, was expected to cool further, with Environment Canada forecasting a 40 percent chance of showers in Fort McMurray on Monday. Cooler temperatures around 10 C were expected through to Friday after last week's record heat. Still, much of Alberta is tinder-box dry after a mild winter and warm spring. Alberta's government estimated on Sunday that the fire had consumed 161,000 hectares (395,000 acres). Officials made clear it was too early to put a time line on getting thousands of evacuees camped out in nearby towns back to Fort McMurray soon, even if their homes are intact. The city's gas has been turned off, its power grid is damaged and the water is undrinkable.Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said on Sunday recovery efforts had begun, with 250 employees from power company ATCO working to restore the power grid and assess gas infrastructure. Fort McMurray is the center of Canada's oil sands region. About half of the crude output from the sands, or 1 million barrels per day, has been taken offline, according to a Reuters estimate. Oil prices jumped almost 2 percent in trading early on Monday, as Canada's fire contributed to tightening supply.[O/R] The inferno looks set to become the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history. One analyst estimated insurance losses could exceed C$9 billion ($7 billion). Nearly all of Fort McMurray's residents escaped the fire safely, although two people were killed in a car crash during the evacuation.In his now regular evening message Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen on Sunday sent condolences to the families of the two teenage cousins in the crash. One of the victims, 15-year-old Emily Ryan, was the daughter of a fireman in the city.Regional officials also said via Facebook that firefighters were getting their first break since the fire began a week ago after being relieved by reinforcements. (With additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary; Writing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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