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‘March, 2010’

“The Miracle Worker” is fascinating look at the education of Helen Keller

“The Miracle Worker” is fascinating look at the education of Helen Keller

Helen (Abigail Breslin) is 10, a wild child, throwing tantrums, screaming. Annie (Alison Pill) is 20, saucy and opinionated. She says, “The only time I have trouble is when I’m right” which is “so often.”

Both of them are whip-smart as well as strong-minded, and William Gibson’s 1985 play tells the fascinating story of how teacher Annie Sullivan got Helen Keller, deaf and blind since infancy, to understand, to touch-sign, and to express herself so brilliantly that she became a world-famous traveler and lecturer. The fact that all this occurs in a small town in 1880s Alabama makes it the more astonishing.

“The Scottsboro Boys” is a stunning and chilling musical about racism in the 1930s

“The Scottsboro Boys” is a stunning and chilling musical about racism in the 1930s

This Kander and Ebb show, given an astonishing and dazzling staging by director Susan Stroman, tells the story of what happens to nine blacks accused of collaborating in the rape of two white women in Alabama in 1931. The mood is a jazzy operetta. The dramatic vignettes of the story are interspersed with numbers of a minstrel show, which allows you to catch your breath between horrific events and adds the element of satire.

Who better to craft a political musical than John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote the 1993 classic “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” about the movie fantasies of a prisoner tortured by the Argentine dictatorship that brutalized the country nearly half a century ago. And director-choreographer Susan Stroman stages this in a cutting, jazzy minstrel style that takes irony to new levels.

National Headliner Award for Komisar story on Stanford

National Headliner Award for Komisar story on Stanford

March 23, 2010 –

I’ve been awarded a National Headliner Award for the story on Ponzi-schemer Allen Stanford I took to the Miami Herald last year. It exposed how the Florida Banking Department ignored the strong advice of its own lawyer and allowed Stanford to set up an unregulated office to move money offshore.

IDT’s Voodoo Economics: Inside Justice Dept’s probe of telecom bribes in Haiti

IDT’s Voodoo Economics: Inside Justice Dept’s probe of telecom bribes in Haiti

The Big Money, March 11, 2010

When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January, IDT, the New Jersey-based global phone company, moved fast to help.

It announced it was setting up calling stations at hotels and other sites so Haitians could use its Internet calling-service to reach family and friends around the world. It cut rates on its U.S. prepaid calling-card to 2 cents a minute to Haiti (at least for 12 days), donated 4,000 $2-prepaid calling-cards to Haitian community groups in New York and Florida, and said it would give some proceeds from prepaid calls to Haitian Red Cross relief.

Such a warm, fuzzy response from a U.S. corporation often wins plaudits, though, of course, IDT has a business interest in the impoverished island. In 2005, in its latest publicly available figures, the company reported $4 million in profits from $17 million in revenues for routing calls there.

The ICE Age — big banks set up their own credit default swaps exchange

The ICE Age — big banks set up their own credit default swaps exchange

portfolio.com, March 8, 2010

One year ago, a group of financial institutions quietly launched ICE Trust, a new and theoretically safer way to trade derivatives, a key element of the financial crisis. As lawmakers debate reform, banks at the center of the storm are remaking the market—and stand to profit.

As the financial crisis exploded with full force in 2008, it was obvious that something was gravely wrong with the huge, unregulated market for derivatives.

Lehman Brothers had $738 billion of these contracts—which are based on the value of some other asset, such as a stock or a bond or a hog belly—on its books when it failed on September 14, 2008.

Lehman certainly wasn’t alone. Over the next few months, insurer AIG reported as much as $53.5 billion of derivatives losses—losses that were linked to nearly one third of its $182.5 billion federal

Liev Schreiber gives taut, subtle performance in Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”

Liev Schreiber gives taut, subtle performance in Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”

Arthur Miller’s story of the betrayal that tears apart a longshore family in Brooklyn was a metaphor for the treachery of the people who “named names” in the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s. In this powerful revival directed by Gregory Mosher, we witness the inexorable downfall of Eddie Carbone (Liev Schreiber), a longshoreman, who forgets the sense of honor and loyalty that is the glue that holds together the hard-working Italian community in Red Hook, on the Brooklyn waterfront, where he and his wife Beatrice (Jessica Hecht) live. His self-interest is not the careerism of the film and theater people who betrayed colleagues to HUAC, but jealousy ignited by the illicit passion he feels for his niece Catherine (Scarlett Johansson).

“Time Stands Still” is a powerful play about a photographer’s passion

“Time Stands Still” is a powerful play about a photographer’s passion

Donald Margulies’s powerful and moving play dissects the professional and psychological passion of a photographer who covers the horrors of wars, famine, and genocide. “Time stands still” represents the moment when she presses the shutter button and sees the world only through the view finder. Time stops, sound cuts out; her experience is just what is taking place in the rectangle. There is an objectifying and separation from reality. And for Sarah Goodwin (Laura Linney) it’s the only moment in life that counts.