KING Felipe VI and president Pedro Sánchez were in Paris on Sunday to join the centenary celebrations of the Armistice, which put an end to World War I on the 11 day of the 11 month in 1918. Sánchez and his wife...
Princess of Asturias Awards: Martin Scorsese, mountaineers and anti-FGM campaigners
FORMERLY the 'Prince of Asturias Awards', but renamed the 'Princess of Asturias Awards' in 2014 when said Prince became King, these Royal honours are often referred to as Spain's answer to the Nobel Prize – and are becoming more and more international.
In fact, this year, none of the recipients is Spanish – compared with previous years when practically all of them were.
Running since 1981, the prestigious prizegiving – which took place late on Friday in Oviedo, Asturias – comes in eight categories: Arts; Communication and Humanities; International Cooperation; Concordance; Sports; Letters; Social Sciences; and Science and Technology Research.
Probably the most famous face at the 2018 awards, after King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, was legendary film director Martin Scorsese, the guest of honour
Arts Award: Martin Scorsese
Italian-American director Scorsese, 75, was lauded by the King for 'the greatness of his works', his 'constant search for truth and redemption', his 'passion for life' and his 'ability to flesh out...the ambivalence of human feelings'.
Scorsese (first picture, with Queen Letizia) gave an emphatic speech about the importance of film as an art form and the freedom of expression in the creative world, and extolled the virtues of several of Spain's most prominent artists in various fields – authors Miguel de Cervantes, Miguel de Unamuno and Federico García Lorca; painters Pablo Picasso and Francisco Goya, and post-censorship film director Luis Buñuel, whom he defined as 'one of the greatest artists in the history of cinema' whose work is 'more alive and more up to date than the last text message you received'.
Born in New York, both sets of Scorsese's grandparents were Sicilian immigrants, from Palermo, and his strict Catholic upbringing has influenced his works – themes such as faith, guilt and penitence arise frequently.
Focusing mostly on crime and thrillers, Scorsese's most prominent films include Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, from the 1970s; the highly-controversial The Last Temptation of Christ, from 1988; Cape Fear and Casino, from the 1990s and, from the 21st century, Gangs of New York and The Wolf of Wall Street.
He has directed Leonardo DiCaprio in five of his films and also his close friend Robert de Niro several times.
Communication and Humanities Award: Alma Guillermoprieto
The Mexican reporter, 69, was praised by King Felipe for her investigative 'truth-seeking' and 'reflective' journalism, whilst recalling that the profession is 'indispensable for a democratic society'.
A writer and dancer, Sra Guillermoprieto started her career with left-wing British broadsheet The Guardian in the 1970s, for which she covered the Nicaraguan uprising, before moving to The Washington Post where she wrote an exposé on the Mozote massacre in El Salvador.
Head of reporting for South America in Newsweek in the 1980s and feature-writer and literary critic for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books in the 1990s, Alma was invited by the late Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez to give a talk at the opening of the Latin American New Journalism Foundation in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
She has written articles on the political crisis in México and guerrilla warfare in Colombia.
International Cooperation Award: Amref Health Africa
Aiming for free and universal healthcare for the entire continent of Africa by the year 2030 and fighting against female genital mutilation (FGM), the charity's work has, in HRH Felipe VI's words, 'put into the spotlight the injustice that many human beings live through daily, purely for having been born in a forgotten corner of the planet', and shows 'how indifference, despair and pessimism are no help'.
The King made special mention of the battle by Amref ambassador Nice Nailantei Leng'ete who, since the age of eight, has helped 'thousands of young girls' escape an 'unfair and terrible' destination.
Listed among this year's 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine, Nice (second picture) works tirelessly with fellow members of the Masai communities in southern Kenya, convincing them to reject FGM in favour of other, harmless rites of passage, and persuading them of the importance of girls having an education.
Concordance Award: Sylvia Earle
Dr Earle, 83, an American marine biologist, took the opportunity of her prizegiving to deliver a speech on how the world's seas, 'the source of life', are sliding into a 'dangerously serious' situation due to over-exploitation, lack of oxygen in the so-called 'dead zones', rising water temperatures caused by CO2 and pollution from 'eight million tonnes of plastic' dumped into the sea every year.
“These are alarming signs of a situation that we absolutely must reverse,” says Dr Earle.
First woman to become head scientist at the USA's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and named by Time magazine 20 years ago as Hero of the Planet, Sylvia Earle headed up marine research trips during the 1991 Gulf War to ascertain the extent of environmental damage Iraq had caused by destroying Kuwait's oil wells, and also similar site visits during the Gulf of México's Deepwater Horizon Disaster eight years ago.
She undertook sub-marine inspections in the wake of the Exxon Váldez and Mega Borg oil-spill disasters, and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from Seattle Aquarium in January.
Sports Award: Reinhold Messner and Krzysztof Wielicki
Italian-born Messner, 74, was the first person in the world to crown all 14 of the planet's peaks of over 8,000 metres without oxygen, including Everest twice.
Pakistan's Nanga Parbat was his first, in 1970, along with his brother Günther, who lost his life on the way down.
Nepal's Manaslu, also known as Kutang; the Gasherbrum I on the Pakistan-China border; the K-2, in the Himalayas; the Shisha Pangma in Tibet; the Kangchenjunga on the Nepal-India border; the Gasherbrum II; Broad Peak, or K-3, in the Pakistani Himalayas; Cho Oyu in Tibet; Dhaulagiri in Nepal; and the Himalayan mountain peaks of Annapurna, Makalu and Lhotse have all been conquered by Messner (third picture), in that order.
Krzysztof Wielicki, 68, from Poland was the fifth man to crown all 14 of the 8,000-metre-plus peaks, but the first to scale Everest, Kangchenjunga and Lhotse in winter.
Letters Award: Fred Vargas
“Her concept of artistic creation serves to dip in and out of reality, and also to look reality right in the eyes,” King Felipe said of Parisian authoress Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, 61.
A prolific crime writer, her most popular character is police commissioner Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, who appears in 12 novels, and she is also famous for her The Three Evangelists series as well as scientific and political articles.
Social Sciences Award: Michael J. Sandel
How to 'work together for a more reasonable, more informed and more fortunate society' is the focus of Jewish-American political philosopher and Harvard professor Dr Sandel, according to King Felipe.
The titles of his written works speak for themselves: Justice: What's the right thing to do?; Liberalism and the limits of justice; Democracy's discontent; Public philosophy: Essays on morality in politics; The case against perfection: Ethics in the age of genetic engineering, and What money can't buy: The moral limits of markets, written between 1982 and 2012, have all become international bestsellers translated into numerous languages, including Spanish.
Science and Technology Research Award: Svante Pääbo
“Science, which looks to the future, often does so by immersing itself in the past, interpreting and learning from it,” Felipe VI said of Palaeo-geneticist Pääbo's work.
The Swede, considered the founder of his branch of biology, announced in 2006 a plan to completely reconstruct the entire genome of Neanderthal man – the draft of which was completed three years later by the Max Planck Institute in Munich.
Led by Pääbo, the project team sequenced over three billion pairs of genomes.
A year later, Dr Pääbo successfully analysed the DNA of a finger bone found in the Denisova caves in Siberia which, he discovered, belonged to an extinct and as-yet undocumented species of very early human, which he has dubbed the 'Denisova Hominid'.
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