Julia Spitz: Act locally? It's not an option
Remember the good old days when the criminals lived in your neighborhood?
OK, maybe they came from a nearby town, or even a few states away, but you had some idea who they were and where they were.
Your bike got stolen, you looked on porches up and down your street. Your credit card got stolen, the bad guy was likely to get caught when he tried to use it at the local department store.
Now we're a global society.
And someone may well be using your credit to buy coffee in Turkey or a necklace in Ukraine.
Authorities recently caught up with Maksym Yastremskiy, a Ukrainian man who's probably never heard of Carl Yastrzemski, probably never set foot in Fenway, much less Framingham.
Yastremskiy didn't have to visit TJX headquarters in person to get what he wanted. He didn't have to shop at T.J. Maxx in Milford or Marshall's in Marlborough.
According to an agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's global investigations unit, the man arrested in Turkey just had to know the right people to get access to the estimated 45 million credit and debit card numbers stolen in TJX security breaches.
``He was involved in the distribution of information,'' Greg Crabb told the Associated Press. ``We do have information that suggests other individuals were the masterminds of the hack.''
Great, just great.
More people to track down, quite possibly in countries that might not want to cooperate.
Being able to buy peaches in December is a nice perk, but this global village thing has its drawbacks.
We no longer have to respond to ex-Nigerian diplomats' e-mails to get scammed on a different continent. A credit card used to buy sneakers on Rte. 9 can lead to someone running up a debt in some country we thought was just a fantasy land Lucy Ricardo made up when she was pretending to be an exotic foreign princess.
We feed our dogs and cats top-of-the-line chow, only to find out it all comes from the same place, China, and what was in the stuff was bad enough to kill our pets.
Expensive playthings we buy for our kids come from China, too, and it turns out the toys have a risk of turning lethal as well. And check your toothpaste to make sure everything on the tube is spelled correctly, otherwise it could kill you.
The Chinese government showed the world it was willing to mete out swift justice when information about tainted goods came to light.
Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of the country's food and drug agency, was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 during his tenure. On May 29, he was sentenced to death. His appeal was rejected two weeks later. He was killed July 11.
``The few corrupt officials of the (State Food and Drug Administration) are the shame of the whole system and their scandals have revealed some very serious problems,'' an agency spokeswoman said at a news conference in Beijing, according to AP reports.
It wasn't just Americans affected by the serious problems. Dozens of people in Panama died last year when they took Chinese-made medicine contaminated by a thickening agent used in antifreeze. Tainted toothpaste turned up in South America and Asia as well as stores in Boston.
Still, Zheng's execution was shocking for people living in this corner of the global village, where the death sentence is rare and appeals usually last decades.
It also raised concerns that one man was made a very public scapegoat while thousands, or millions, of others will continue business as usual.
Since bits and pieces of most anything we buy have a good chance of being made in China, we have good reason to be concerned.
And, if we find we have time left over in between worrying about our food, toys, medicine, household goods, e-mail scams, credit fraud and identity theft, we can worry about terrorists finding a way to kill us from afar, ice caps melting or North Korea pointing a missile our way.
Or we can do less worrying and more dealing with the reality of what we've become.
For better or worse, we are a global village.
If there's anyone left who has the notion we can live in isolation, get over it.
We need to educate ourselves about the rest of the world. We need to read.
We need to listen. We need to care.
We need to understand none of us lives in Vegas anymore, not even people who live in Las Vegas.
What happens there doesn't stay there.
What happens here ends up in Kazakhstan.
What happens anywhere on the planet hits home.
Julia Spitz of The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be reached at 508-626-3968 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check metrowestdailynews.com or milforddailynews.com for the Spitz Bitz blog.