People: Fascists under true colours

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THE gleaming white vessel off the coast of Sicily looked like just another cruise ship plying the Mediterranean, passengers happily swimming, disco-dancing, gambling, sunbathing, dining and watching the World Cup matches on a giant television screen. On board for the 12- day cruise from Genoa, however, were Gianfranco Fini, leader of the Italian National Alliance, and more than 600 neo-Fascist faithful.

The ship also bore another big name: Achille Lauro.

In October 1985, a group of Palestinian extremists commandeered the vessel after it left Alexandria for Port Said, and a 69-year-old Jewish American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was pushed overboard in his wheelchair.

With the Italian neo-Fascists aboard, the Achille Lauro is due to return to Egyptian waters to allow veterans who fought for Mussolini in the Western Desert to commemorate their fallen comrades at the site of the battle of El Alamein, where British troops won a decisive victory over the Axis powers.

Why did the alliance choose a ship whose name evokes the anti-Semitism that Mr Fini says he disavows? His supporters say it just didn't occur to anyone.

ALL the world may be a stage, but the municipalities of metropolitan Manila and Cebu are off-limits to the three actors involved in last week's Manila Film Festival awards scandal. A ban on films in which they star has been expanded throughout the region, the cinema-mad country's largest market. The Film Academy of the Philippines and the Actors' Guild have suspended the stars, effectively depriving them of all film roles.

The trouble began at the 22 June awards ceremonies, when Ruffa Gutierrez was announced as best actress and Gabby Concepcion as best actor, despite the judges having declared two others as the real winners. Ms Gutierrez and Mr Concepcion, as well as Nanette Medved, co-presenter of the best actor award, were charged on Tuesday with fraud.

Four others were also charged: Mr Concepcion's agent, Ms Gutierrez's mother and brother, and Viveka Babajee, an award-presenter. Mr Concepcion and Ms Medved, both US citizens, are to report to immigration authorities today for a review of their work permits.

AFTER only a year on the Japanese political scene, Makiko Tanaka has become the only woman in the new cabinet of Tomiichi Murayama. The daughter of Kakuei Tanaka, the country's most powerful post-war politician, she heads the science and technology agency.

'I was so surprised by the appointment,' she said. 'It felt like being shot up in the space shuttle with Mukai-san.' Ms Tanaka was referring to Chiaki Mukai, Japan's first female astronaut, who is to blast off aboard the shuttle Columbia next week.

(Photographs omitted)