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Editorial: The art of diplomacy

What can possibly explain the sudden interest of three elected officials from Queens in atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during the 1930s? On Nov. 23, while most thoughts turned to turkey, newly elected State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) and Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) met with the Alliance in Memory of the Nanjing Massacre. The three officials promised to introduce a resolution in Albany asking Japan to apologize for the atrocities committed against the Chinese people.

Don't get us wrong. The Japanese occupation forces in the Philippines, Korea and China committed unspeakable crimes against humanity. These crimes included murder, rape and torture. We also agree that Japan should apologize formally to the victims of the Nanjing Massacre and their survivors. Japan should pay reparations for these atrocities and should teach the truth about its disgraceful history in high school textbooks.

But we don't see why two Albany legislators and a congressman should be getting involved in this peculiar act of international diplomacy. As a longtime member of the House Subcommittee on Asian Affairs, Ackerman may claim some expertise in the history of this region and a resolution signed by Congress may raise a few eyebrows in Tokyo. However, a similar resolution passed by the somnambulant legislators of Albany will give new meaning to the word meaningless.

A cynic might theorize that the three politicians were pandering to the growing Chinese-American community in northeast Queens. To be sure, the day is coming when Asian-Americans will be a powerful political force. But that day is a ways down the road.

If Stavisky, McLaughlin and Ackerman really need an issue to hang their hats on, we suggest they tackle the overcrowding in our public schools. Perhaps they can find a way to ensure that New York City gets its fair share of state education dollars. Surely they understand that plans for new classrooms in northeast Queens fall short of the projected need. Already children in the two best school districts in the city attend classes in renovated restrooms and trailers.

Perhaps there is a legislator in China or Japan who will come to the defense of the children of Queens.

Real compassion

Starting next week, people who refuse to accept workfare assignments may be asked to leave city-run homeless shelters. The mayor has also threatened to arrest homeless people who prefer to sleep in cardboard boxes than in a shelter.

Homeless advocates say the mayor is being cruel. The mayor claims that real compassion is pushing people to become self-reliant.

Lost in the discussion is the reality that many of the people living on our streets are mentally ill. Let's get real. If the temperature is hovering near zero and you prefer the icy cold sidewalk to a warm bed and warm food in a shelter, you are most likely mentally ill. We don't buy the argument that the shelters are so dangerous that some find the streets safer.

Current law makes it difficult for society to forcibly commit the mentally ill. And thus, we can only watch as some miserable souls live out a hellish existence on our streets. This is the real homeless problem. These are the people who represent an imminent danger to themselves and to others. It may be that there is little that the hospitals can do to chase away the demons that plague these people. But we can make certain that they at least live in a humane environment.

Take these people out of the equation and we are left with those who are willing to work for their room and board and those who think this is owed to them.

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