Tag Archives: anniversary

Brewing company in Chippewa Falls creates anniversary brew

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., is reaching into its past as it plans for its future.

Looking ahead to next year’s 150th anniversary celebration of when founders Jacob Leinenkugel and John Miller first began brewing beer in Chippewa Falls, the brewery is honoring its family’s roots by creating a collaborative beer with Hofbräu München, a German brewery that’s even older, dating back to its founding by William V., Duke of Bavaria, in 1589, the Leader-Telegram reported.

The brew — Leinenkugel’s Anniversary Lager — is an amber-colored, marzen-style beer that when introduced in April will represent more than a year’s cooperative effort between the two breweries, including a meeting in Chippewa Falls last June that featured the key representatives from both companies. The beer will be brewed simultaneously — for bottles and kegs in Chippewa Falls, for kegs in Munich — using identical formulas and ingredients, with American hops shipped to Munich and German malt sent to Chippewa Falls.

“We have our roots in Germany, and this is the first time the Leinenkugels have brewed beer in Germany since at least 1845,” said Dick Leinenkugel, brewery president and a member of the fifth generation of Leinenkugels charged with carrying on the family tradition.

“We felt a lot of similarities with the Hofbräu representatives as we worked on this,” Leinenkugel said. “Hofbräu München is owned by the Bavarian state, and they’ve been around for 400-plus years, and working with them you get the sense they feel very much like the caretakers of a brand and a brewery. And in our case, it’s our family, it’s our name on the label, and we feel very responsible for it.”

Jacob Leinenkugel learned the brewing science at the knee of his father, Mathias, who brewed beer in Meckenheim, Germany, before immigrating in 1845 to the United States with his wife, Maria, and children in tow, including Jacob, age 3. Mathias founded a brewery in Sauk City, and his offspring all eventually operated breweries in the state, including Jacob’s creation in Chippewa Falls in 1867.

“This collaboration is really historic, the Leinies brewery with its German heritage and a historic German brewer creating a beer together and both of them brewing it,” said Bill Febry of Cardinal Marketing in Chippewa Falls, a Leinenkugel’s ambassador helping with the 150th anniversary planning. “Both breweries have such a story to tell, and what better way to help tell it than through a collaborative beer.”

When discussions about creating a beer with a German brewery began in 2015, Leinenkugel said working with Hofbräu München immediately came to mind.

“We already had a relationship with them through Steve Ksycki; we knew Steve, and Steve knew us,” Leinenkugel said. Ksycki, the U.S. brand manager for Hofbräu München n, formerly worked for Leinenkugel’s then-parent company SABMiller in their specialty craft beer accounts, which included Leinenkugel’s. (Leinenkugel’s is now part of MillerCoors.)

Ksycki said he was excited by the concept of a collaborative beer and brought the idea to his superior.

“Just like Leinenkugel’s, Hofbräu München is very protective of their brand,” Ksycki said. “They view themselves as guardians of a national treasure. They were willing to listen, but it was going to have to be a very good fit.”

The early discussions led to a key January 2016 conference phone call — in English — among all the principals of both breweries, including executives, brand managers and brewmasters.

“There was a lot involved,” Leinenkugel said, noting the agenda included developing timelines, determining an organization, defining roles and discussing possible beer styles. That initial call went well, and over the next several months teams worked out a variety of issues, including legal agreements, pricing, packaging and distribution.

And then there was the beer itself. Because it would be brewed by Hofbräu München in Germany, it had to adhere to the “Reinheitsgebot,” sometimes called the German Beer Purity Law. Only four ingredients could be used: malt, hops, yeast and water.

“There were several different versions of what we call a fest-style beer,” Leinenkugel said. “Our Oktoberfest is a marzen-style, but we wanted this to be different than that. There was input from the Hofbräu team and the Leinenkugel’s team. By the end of April we were ready to brew prototypes.”

With beer ready to taste, in June representatives from Hofbräu München flew over to visit the Chippewa Falls brewery. All the key players from both breweries attended. Hofbräu München representatives included Dr. Michael Möller, director and CEO, Rudy Seider, national sales, and Rolf Dummert, head brewmaster. The Leinenkugel’s team included Dick Leinenkugel and brewmaster John Buhdrow.

“That was a key selling point, for Dr. Möller and the others to come over and experience the Leinies brewery and meet the people, the family,” Ksycki said. “They loved the character and the feel of the brewery.”

“We knew this was a historic meeting,” Leinenkugel said. “Our brewmaster, John Buhdrow, showed them around our brewery. And then we went to the Leinie’s Lodge, and we started tasting the prototypes and discussing what we liked about each.”

The two brewmasters, Dummert and Buhdrow, gravitated toward the more traditional style of the two finalists. The younger members of the teams leaned toward a style that included “mosaic” hops.

“That style had a little bit of spiciness, that little bit of floral aromatic that comes from the mosaic hops,” Leinenkugel said. “So it was a bit of ‘old school’ meets ‘new school.’

“There was more conversation, more deliberation, more tasting, and we decided to go with the one that included the mosaic hops. And in the end, everyone was pleased with the decision.”

Leinenkugel describes the beer as “bready, toasted caramel, rich, flavorful, with the hops bringing in this fruitiness, a little bit of spiciness, but still balances the malt. The goal was to have a beer that has drinkability, a beer that can be enjoyed in liter steins.”

And after the final recipe was chosen, “we went and broke bread at Famous Dave’s, and we drank Hofbräu original, and they drank Leinie’s Original,” he said.

Leinenkugel’s Anniversary Lager will only be a part of the brewery’s celebration of its 150th anniversary, which will include a community event Aug. 10-12 at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds.

But when Leinenkugel considers the significance of the collaborative beer, he points to both the professional and personal achievements that made it possible.

“This was two brewing teams from historic breweries collaborating on a new recipe, tasting it, discussing it, and in the end choosing it and brewing it,” he said. “And also the conversations about how we’re going to package it, how we’re going to promote it, how we’re going to sell it, all of those details.

“And then after meeting the representatives from Hofbräu, you really understand that they care about their beers as much as we do. And even though they are from Germany, and we’re from Chippewa Falls, we are brewers. In many ways we speak the same language.”

On 400th anniversary, exhibit examines Shakespeare’s act

From a dress worn by Vivien Leigh as Lady Macbeth to a “Hamlet” script owned by famous stage actors, a new exhibition explores how William Shakespeare became “the Bard” 400 years after his death.

“Shakespeare in Ten Acts” looks at 10 key performances of the playwright’s works, from the first showing of “Hamlet” at the Globe theater around 1600 to a contemporary version of that play in the digital age.

The exhibition opens at London’s British Library as theater fans prepare to mark the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616.

“It’s really difficult to do full justice to Shakespeare’s legacy over the last 400 years,” exhibition lead curator Zoe Wilcox said in a British Library video handout.

“We’re not just looking at Shakespeare the man or his most famous plays, we’re focusing in on 10 significant performances of his work that tell us something about the way that his plays have been constantly reinvented through the ages.”

A woman is reflected in glass next to a human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt during the press preview of the exhibition 'Shakespeare in Ten Acts' at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A woman is reflected in glass next to a human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt during the press preview of the exhibition ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Highlights include the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s handwriting, in which he describes the plight of refugees. Also on show is a human skull inscribed with poetry given by French writer Victor Hugo to actress Sarah Bernhardt, which she used when playing Hamlet in 1899.

Visitors will also be able to see a “Hamlet” script owned by the likes of Michael Redgrave, Peter O’Toole and now Kenneth Branagh and theater playbills showing the career highs and lows of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play “Othello” on the English stage in 1825, organizers said.

“We are using the full range of things we have at our disposal to bring them (the acts) to life,” Wilcox said.

“So sound, video, costumes, props, paintings, everything we can to give people a sense of what those performances would have felt like had you been attending them.”

“Shakespeare in Ten Acts” runs until September.

A human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt is seen during the press preview of the exhibition 'Shakespeare in Ten Acts' at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
A human skull owned by Sarah Bernhardt is seen during the press preview of the exhibition ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ at the British Library in London, Britain April 14. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

‘45 Years’ a devastating time bomb

How many great movies could be written across the enigmatic, profound face of Charlotte Rampling? Hundreds? Thousands? At any rate, Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years” is one of them.

In it, Rampling stars as half of a childless couple — Kate and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) Mercer — preparing to celebrate their 45th anniversary. In minutes, we can already feel jealousy welling in us from snapshots of their peaceful, harmonious lives in rural England: dog walks, drinking tea and taking leisurely trips into town.

That such appearances of elderly tranquility are not what they seem is one of the notions upended by “45 Years.” A letter arrives for Geoff with startling news that the frozen body of the woman he dated before meeting Kate has been found in a Swiss glacier where she died in an accident while traveling with Geoff more than 50 years ago. “Like something in the freezer,” mumbles an astonished Geoff.

“She’d look like what she did in 1962,” he says. “And I look like this.”

The news unsettles Geoff, transporting him back to his mid-20s self, unmooring an iceberg of the past. Confessions follow, revealing a deeper history than Kate was before aware. She watches with increasing alarm as her husband begins smoking again and rummaging around the attic late at night for pictures of his old flame. Their previously rock-solid relationship is suddenly beset with fissures and tremors erupted by a history that isn’t so ancient, after all.

Haigh, who is 42, has made the HBO series “Looking” and the excellent independent film “Weekend.” That movie dealt with two gay men whose one-night stand is extended across a weekend, during which a remarkable intimacy accumulates as they examine their night together and contemplate their connection.

For Haigh, relationships are forged in a moment, crystalized in the circumstances of their beginnings. Kate and Geoff may be in their 70s, but their marriage is still built upon — and haunted by — whatever brought them together in their 20s. Old age has done far less to change them than most would think.

The devastating power of “45 Years,” which Haigh adapted from David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country,” lies in the director’s sensitive understanding of relationships: of the conversations that take place over pillows and the quiet contemplation of fates abandoned in marriage.

But it’s Haigh’s tremendous lead actors that make the movie. They’re a convincing couple: Courtenay is absent-minded and untidy; Rampling is cool and controlled. As Kate sees a new rival to her husband rise from the dead, the anxieties and confusions flicker across Rampling’s face. Turmoil stirs beneath her chilly stillness.

If going to see “45 Years” (and you should), choose your date wisely. After the film’s haunting final shot, you’re likely to be exiting the theater wondering just how well you really know the companion next to you. 


Mad Contemporary: Current exhibitions at MMoCA

Have you been feeling starved for contemporary art? The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is celebrating its 10th anniversary, which means the museum is currently packed full of exciting exhibitions, including one in a new multimedia gallery.

MMoCA has been interested in new media for some time, but never before had a gallery completely dedicated to video art. The Imprint Gallery, which opened on Sept. 18, changes that, with Kim Schoen: Have You Never Let Someone Else Be Strong? as its inaugural exhibition.

The title refers to the L.A. artist’s centerpiece: a 22-minute looping video that fixates on the play of fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Through tightly cropped shots, Schoen draws our attention to the weird apparatuses that create the opulent play of light and water in the middle of the desert landscape. The mechanical hardware emerges and submerges from its liquid setting, taking on the character of an industrial Esther Williams water ballet. Water shoots forth in sprays and eruptions, sometimes appearing analogous to fiery pyrotechnics and alternately like cool blue desolate expanses. The visual effects are a close-up spectacle, made ironic by the invisible context of the artificial playground built in the arid land.

A different video installation — Jennifer Steinkamp’s monumental Rapunzel 9, which covers a wall with waving arrays of wildflowers — introduces Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context. As its title suggests, the exhibit is a showcase of works newly added to the museum’s permanent collection, artfully organized into a series of thoughtful themes and juxtapositions. The deviation from strict chronology instigates an engaging dialogue between viewers and images. 

The opening section is interestingly organized into headings of “Pop Art: New York” and “Pop and Post-Pop Art: Los Angeles,” offering a distinction to highlight regional variations in this broad movement. 

There is a good dose of Andy Warhol and his dollar sign prints, as well as notable pieces by James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha. Claes Oldenburg shows his longevity with the witty “Pizza/Palette,” a lithograph from 1996. The pie is a wonky oval with a single slice waving upwards, beckoning and amusingly upsetting the balance. It is deliciously, delightfully topped off with red for sauce, squiggly green line peppers and purple olive blobs.

On a more serious note, the exhibition’s Social Commentary section draws us to a place where art speaks with a powerful voice on range of issues, from race to sexual orientation and gender. The Guerilla Girls are represented by screenprints that exemplify their use of advertising tropes to investigate the recognition (or lack thereof) of women artists in the museum and the high-end art world. 

Nancy Mladenoff’s “Ideology Primer” succinctly critiques the malformation of young minds into stereotypical roles. In this painting on fabric, a 1950s-fashioned man sits with a young boy. Both are seated as he instructs the lad while holding an object like an oversized pencil nib, a bullet casing — or any number of objects with phallic significance. In the background, a discreet pattern is formed by outlines of soldiers wearing gas masks and porting rifles. Smaller figures of musclemen accent the scene in a variety of poses, showing off well-toned bodies. There is a whiff of mid-century Americana, and it is a scent that lingers. Although the piece was done in 1989, these notions are still very recognizable today. 

In the same gallery space are two portraits of Mao Zedong by Leon Golub from his Portraits of Power series. Perhaps most surprising is another Warhol piece, his “Birmingham Race Riot of 1964.” Like newsprint in high contrast, Warhol appears as a documentarian but with a more heightened sense of social activism than he is generally credited. 

Other highlights include beautiful large-scale ambrotypes by J. Shimon and J. Lindemann in the Photography section, a lithograph of Joe Wilfer by Alice Neel in Portraiture, and the mysterious “Pitahayas” by Frida Kahlo in Still Life, where the luscious red fruit is joined by a diminutive skeleton with springs for arms and wielding a scythe. 

Details and a discreet point of view are central to the exhibition Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum, effectively a giant cabinet of curiosities. Nicholson takes found objects, recovered by herself or gifted from friends, and arranges them in combinations that speak to their essence of form. The exhibition consists of four rooms that emulate Nicholson’s studio setup.

Nicholson’s motivation comes from a love of physical objects, and the wonder that comes from their survival over the long course of time. In the digital world, so much of what we make exists only in virtual form. In the face of changing technology what is made may be lost or made obsolete, no longer accessible. 

Her exhibition reminds us of the pleasures of tangible things, the interest that comes with living with assorted oddities, and the role of the museum — personal or otherwise — to create a new and alternate environments for pleasure, perusal, and transformation. 

On Display

Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context is on view through Jan. 3. 

Kim Schoen: Have You Never Let Someone Else Be Strong? is on view through Jan. 10. 

Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum is on view through Nov. 8. 

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is at 227 State St. For more information, visit mmoca.org.

| —Photos: Madison museum of contemporary art

Stills from Have You Never Let Someone Else Be Strong?, the video centerpiece of 
MMoCA’s first installation at its new multimedia gallery.  | —Photos: MMoCA




Senator backs campaign to put female face on $20

The first woman to serve as both governor and U.S. senator is backing a campaign to put a female face on the $20 bill.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen filed legislation this week that would create a citizens panel to recommend an appropriate choice to the treasury secretary. She is hoping to build on the work of Women on 20s, a national campaign pushing for new $20 bills by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities that we sometimes don’t think about to point out the significant contributions women have made in U.S. history,” Shaheen said. “And this is one of those opportunities.”

The current portrait of former President Andrew Jackson has stared out from the face of the $20 since 1928. But paper currency is redesigned every seven to 10 years to thwart counterfeiters, and the latest $20 notes entered circulation in 2003. Changes can be ordered by the treasury secretary or president without an act of Congress, and Shaheen’s bill wouldn’t compel either to do so. Still, she and campaign supporters hope it will boost public support for redesigning the currency and spur broader conversation about the achievements of American women.

Barbara Ortiz Howard founded Women on 20s last year to honor historic women by making them visible in everyday lives. With help from experts in women’s history, the group compiled a list of 15 candidates that was narrowed to four finalists after a month of online voting: former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, escaped slave and leading abolitionist Harriet Tubman, civil rights icon Rosa Parks and former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller. More than 230,000 people voted in the first week after the finalists were announced April 6, said the group’s executive director, Susan Ades Stone.

Stone said voting will continue as long as interest remains high, though the group may approach the White House in the next few weeks.

“The name of the winner is not what this is about. What it’s about is showing that there’s wide support for a woman on our paper currency,” she said. “We are not under any illusions that the person who comes out of our polling will be the person who ends up on a bill because there is a process and that process usually involves empaneling a group of experts to make certain design choices.”

In a speech in Missouri last year, President Barack Obama described getting a letter from a young girl suggesting a long list of women to put on currency, and he said he thought that was “a pretty good idea.” Although others have started online petitions urging the change, none has reached the 100,000-signature threshold required for an official White House response, Stone said.

Shaheen, a Democrat, became the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire in 1996 and the first woman in the nation to serve as both governor and U.S. senator when she was elected to Congress in 2008. She contrasted the current social-media-driven campaign to the effort that led to the release of the Susan B. Anthony dollar coins in 1979.

“That was really before we had the social media we have today, but I remember a lot of people weighing in on that,” she said. “But paper currency is still really the currency of choice … so I think this is an important way to recognize women’s contributions just as we recognize men’s contributions.”

According to the Department of the Treasury, Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on $1 silver certificates in 1886, 1891 and 1896. Given that the $20 is overdue for an update, the cost of redesigning it to include a female portrait would be nominal, Shaheen said. Although she declined to pick one woman, Shaheen said some of her top choices include Tubman, Roosevelt, former first lady Abigail Adams and Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat, said she is proud to support the legislation.

“Although half of America’s population are women, we have yet to see a face on paper currency that exemplifies the women leaders in our society,” Kuster said. “It’s far past time to honor the important women who helped shape our nation’s history.”

On the Web…

For more, go to Women on 20s.

Welles centennial celebrated in Madison, Kenosha

A century ago, on May 6, 1915, Kenosha found itself the birthplace of one of the greatest film directors of all time: Orson Welles.

It’s a centennial set to be celebrated in force this year, both there and in another of Welles’ hometowns: Madison, where he lived for a year in his youth.

Madison’s celebration kicks off this month. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque will present Welles’ first film, Citizen Kane, in a free screening on Jan. 24.

It’s only the first foray into Welles’ work, which Cinematheque director of programming Jim Healy says will continue weekly, with screenings of The Magnificent Ambersons and The Stranger on Jan. 31, and subsequent films including Othello, The Lady from Shanghai, F for Fake, and Touch of Evil presented later in February.

“We’ve never really done a Welles series before, so this is a great occasion,” says Healy. He added that the Wisconsin Film Festival, in April, will feature additional presentations, before the Cinematheque returns to a weekly schedule. “In the summer we’ll focus on his acting roles in films that other people directed, and in the fall look at Welles rarities.”

Later in the year, Kenosha’s Citizen Welles Society will have a monthlong celebration of the director beginning on his birthday. Some of the biggest events planned are a live performance of Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast, a Welles Film Festival hosted by UW-Parkside and Carthage College and a variety of other Welles-inspired activities — including magic acts, a lifelong passion of his.

Welles’ time in Wisconsin was brief — he moved to Chicago with his family in 1919, and his year in Madison between 1925 and 1926 was an anomaly that immediately preceded his arrival in Woodstock, Illinois, the town he would ultimately consider his home. 

But even in his brief time in Madison as a fourth-grade public school student, Welles drew attention. A Capital Times story from that year summed him up in the headline “Cartoonist, Actor, Poet and Only 10,” describing accomplishments like impromptu, four-hour performances, oil paintings that showed “keen insight and interpretation” and original poetry recitations.

“Orson has many ambitions,” reported The Capital Times. “At the present time he cannot decide what he will be when he grows up.”

Another Welles anniversary takes place this year. He died in Hollywood 30 years ago, on Oct. 10, 1985.


The UW-Madison Cinematheque will screen Citizen Kane at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24, in room 4070 of Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave. Admission is free. The Orson Welles series will continue on Saturdays into February, and continue into the Wisconsin Film Festival April 9-16. Visit cinema.wisc.edu for more details.

The road to Wisconsin Gazette

Wisconsin Gazette celebrates its fifth anniversary this month. It’s a wonderful accomplishment in this era when newspapers are struggling and face competition from so many digital distractions.

Being a columnist for WiG, I’m not exactly an unbiased observer. Yet I have a unique perspective on how far queer journalism has come. I know where WiG fits into the scheme of things because I’ve been writing for LGBT presses since the 1970s.

My first reporting in a gay publication was for the GPU News in 1977-78. Editor Eldon Murray grew what began as a news outlet for Milwaukee’s Gay People’s Union into a nationally distributed monthly magazine featuring poetry and fiction as well as news and commentary. 

From 1979 to 1983, I published Amazon: Milwaukee’s Feminist Press, a bi-monthly for Milwaukee’s feminist and lesbian communities. Amazon covered women’s music festivals and protests. It showcased poetry and political manifestos. It was half inspiration, half argumentation.

Production in those days was primitive. We typed stories on an IBM Selectric typewriter and cut and pasted the copy onto graph paper. We created headlines by using an X-Acto knife to cut each letter from large sheets of different fonts and laying them evenly across the page to form words. It was exhausting. Printing turnaround could be up to two weeks! Every issue that came out was a miracle.

Eldon Murray was passionate about men and gay rights; I was a raging lesbian feminist. But we always agreed about one thing: It was essential to document the development of our communities (gay, lesbian, feminist) and that in doing so we were writing the first draft of our histories.

In the late 1980s and ‘90s, I wrote for Wisconsin Light and Wisconsin In Step, two publications that covered an exciting period of growth for the queer community. AIDS, outing, PrideFest, the anti-gay backlash, the Jeffrey Dahmer case — there was never a dull moment. 

Word processing and then desktop publishing made production more efficient. However, lack of journalistic expertise and quality control often led to inaccuracies and typos, and the publications relied too much on revenue from phone sex ads, scaring away other advertisers and many readers.

Wisconsin Gazette has many things going for it that previous publications lacked.

Businessman and community activist Leonard Sobczak invested substantial capital to launch and sustain WiG. He hired veteran editor Louis Weisberg who called in professional colleagues like Lisa Neff and Gregg Shapiro, who provided outstanding news and arts coverage from the start. 

WiG’s stories venture beyond gay issues, covering topics like environmentalism, animal welfare, women’s rights and immigration. Gay people are not defined or impacted solely by our sexuality. We engage with the world and are invested in its progress. 

WiG now engages with the broader world too. Since late 2013, the paper has rebranded itself as a broad-spectrum alternative publication, and its slogan has changed to match, from “The voice of progress for Wisconsin’s LGBT community” to the more direct “Progressive. Alternative.” 

WiG won the Milwaukee Press Club Award for Best Designed Newsprint Publication in Wisconsin for 2013. Is there any paper more colorful or welcoming to the eye? I don’t think so.

The rich content and classy design attract a wider range of readers and advertisers than previous publications. WiG has an easy-to-navigate web site where you can check on breaking news and sign up to have a PDF of each issue sent to you via email the night before it hits the streets.

It’s great to see how far the LGBT community has come as part of the broader progressive community, and exhilarating to be part of such a professional, widely read and growing alternative publication.

Carter: U.S. dormant on inequalities between black and white

Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday night lamented continuing inequalities between black and white Americans during a 50th anniversary celebration of the Civil Rights Act in Texas that will feature four of the five living U.S. presidents this week.

Carter said “too many people are at ease” with black unemployment rates that exceed the national average and schools in some places that he described as basically still segregated.

Carter, 89, was the first president to speak at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, which is holding the three-day summit to mark the anniversary of the landmark 1964 law that banned widespread discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and against women.

“We’re pretty much dormant now,” Carter said. “We accept self-congratulations about the wonderful 50th anniversary – which is wonderful – but we feel like Lyndon Johnson did it and we don’t have to do anything anymore.”

The unemployment rate for blacks was 12 percent in February, compared with 5.8 percent for whites.

Carter, who grew up in Georgia, recalled being influenced by black culture and calling for the end of racial discrimination after he was elected governor of that state in 1970. But four decades later, Carter expressed regret at racial and gender inequalities that he says are persistent.

The 39th president touched on wage gaps between women and men and reiterated his support for gay marriage. During a wide-ranging interview to a packed auditorium, Carter also chalked up loosened rules on political campaign contributions as partly the reason for a new era of gridlock in Washington.

“What happens is that the political environment is flooded with money since the Supreme Court made that stupid decision,” Carter said, a reference to the high court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

“A lot of that money that pours into the campaigns is spent on negative commercials. … So by the time the election’s over, you have a polarized Texas or polarized Georgia, red and blue states. Then, when people get to Washington, they don’t trust each other,” he said.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to give the keynote address Thursday. Bill Clinton will speak today, and George W. Bush will be the event’s final speaker Thursday.

George H. W. Bush, 89, is the only living president not attending the summit. He said in a statement that he regretted that he couldn’t attend.

Johnson’s presidency is often viewed in the dark shadow of the Vietnam War, but the library believes his legacy deserves as much attention for the Texan’s victories on civil rights.

The summit began with former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a fast-rising Democrat, urging Congress to tackle immigration reform before the end of the year.

“The stupidest thing we can do economically is make them leave. We don’t have anybody to replace them,” said Barbour, referring to the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the country without legal documentation. “So the impracticality of sending them home should be obvious to everyone.”

Their discussion was interrupted by a woman in the crowd shouting she was a DREAMer and calling on Castro to urge Obama to stop deportations of families.

No one removed the woman, who began shouting again when the panel was over.

Castro, the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, did not respond to the woman but later said he was troubled by families who are deported after minor crimes such as traffic stops.

“My hope is that his administration will go about it in a different way. I’m not comfortable with the number of deportations,” Castro said.

The library also has a “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit that features the original Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, both signed by Johnson, and a copy of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln that declared all slaves in Confederate states free.

China jails man for 18 months for remembering Tiananmen Square

Amnesty International is calling on Chinese authorities to halt the persecution of people seeking to remember the victims of the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

The international human rights group issued the statement in response to the sentencing of a man to 18 months in jail for a remembrance last year and in anticipation of demonstrations to come as the anniversary of the June 4 massacre approaches.

A court in Changshu, in eastern China, found Gu Yimin guilty of inciting state subversion after he tried to post images of the crackdown online and applied to stage a protest on the 24th anniversary last year, according to Amnesty.

“Gu Yimin should be released immediately and unconditionally. Nearly 25 years on from the Tiananmen Square crackdown the authorities continue to stop at nothing to bury the truth of 1989,” said Anu Kultalahti, China researcher at Amnesty International.

Hundreds if not thousands, of protestors were killed or injured during the military crackdown against student protestors in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

“As the 25th anniversary approaches, this could well mark the start of the annual round-up of activists attempting to remember the tragic events of 1989. Rather than ratchet up such persecution the authorities should acknowledge what really happened and deliver justice for the victims,” said Kultalahti.

The 1989 crackdown remains an official taboo in China. Attempts to commemorate, discuss and demand justice for what happened are forcefully curbed, with no public discussion allowed.

Historic smoking report marks 50th anniversary

Fifty years ago, ashtrays seemed to be on every table and desk. Athletes and even Fred Flintstone endorsed cigarettes in TV commercials. Smoke hung in the air in restaurants, offices and airplane cabins. More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked, and there was a good chance your doctor was among them.

The turning point came on Jan. 11, 1964. It was on that Saturday morning that U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry released an emphatic and authoritative report that said smoking causes illness and death — and the government should do something about it.

In the decades that followed, warning labels were put on cigarette packs, cigarette commercials were banned, taxes were raised and new restrictions were placed on where people could light up.

“It was the beginning,” said Kenneth Warner, a University of Michigan public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.

It was not the end. While the U.S. smoking rate has fallen by more than half to 18 percent, that still translates to more than 43 million smokers. Smoking is still far and away the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Some experts predict large numbers of Americans will puff away for decades to come.

Nevertheless, the Terry report has been called one of the most important documents in U.S. public health history, and on its 50th anniversary, officials are not only rolling out new anti-smoking campaigns but reflecting on what the nation did right that day.

The report’s bottom-line message was hardly revolutionary. Since 1950, head-turning studies that found higher rates of lung cancer in heavy smokers had been appearing in medical journals. A widely read article in Reader’s Digest in 1952, “Cancer by the Carton,” contributed to the largest drop in cigarette consumption since the Depression. In 1954, the American Cancer Society announced that smokers had a higher cancer risk.

But the tobacco industry fought back. Manufacturers came out with cigarettes with filters that they claimed would trap toxins before they settled into smokers’ lungs. And in 1954, they placed a full-page ad in hundreds of newspapers in which they argued that research linking their products and cancer was inconclusive.

It was a brilliant counter-offensive that left physicians and the public unsure how dangerous smoking really was. Cigarette sales rebounded.

In 1957 and 1959, Surgeon General Leroy Burney issued statements that heavy smoking causes lung cancer. But they had little impact.

Amid pressure from health advocates, President John F. Kennedy’s surgeon general, Dr. Luther Terry, announced in 1962 that he was convening an expert panel to examine all the evidence and issue a comprehensive, debate-settling report. To ensure the panel was unimpeachable, he let the tobacco industry veto any proposed members it regarded as biased.

Surveys indicated a third to a half of all physicians smoked tobacco products at the time, and the committee reflected the culture: Half its 10 members were smokers, who puffed away during committee meetings. Terry himself was a cigarette smoker.

Dr. Eugene Guthrie, an assistant surgeon general, helped persuade Terry to kick the habit a few months before the press conference releasing the report.

“I told him, ‘You gotta quit that. I think you can get away with a pipe — if you don’t do it openly.’ He said, ‘You gotta be kidding!’ I said, ‘No, I’m not. It just wouldn’t do. If you smoke any cigarettes, you better do it in a closet,”” Guthrie recalled in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

The press conference was held on a Saturday partly out of concern about its effect on the stock market. About 200 reporters attended.

The committee said cigarette smoking clearly did cause lung cancer and was responsible for the nation’s escalating male cancer death rate. It also said there was no valid evidence filters were reducing the danger. The committee also said — more vaguely — that the government should address the problem.

“This was front-page news, and every American knew it,” said Robin Koval, president of Legacy, an anti-smoking organization.

Cigarette consumption dropped a whopping 15 percent over the next three months but then began to rebound. Health officials realized it would take more than one report.

In 1965, Congress required cigarette packs to carry warning labels. Two years later, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV and radio stations to provide free air time for anti-smoking public service announcements. Cigarette commercials were banned in 1971.

Still, progress was slow. Warner recalled teaching at the University of Michigan in 1972, when nearly half the faculty members at the school of public health were smokers. He was one of them.

“I felt like a hypocrite and an idiot,” he said. But smoking was still the norm, and it was difficult to quit, he said.

The 1970s also saw the birth of a movement to protect nonsmokers from cigarette fumes, with no-smoking sections on airplanes, in restaurants and in other places. Those eventually gave way to complete smoking bans. Cigarette machines disappeared, cigarette taxes rose, and restrictions on the sale of cigarettes to minors got tougher.

Tobacco companies also came under increasing legal attack. In the biggest case of them all, more than 40 states brought lawsuits demanding compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. Big Tobacco settled in 1998 by agreeing to pay about $200 billion and curtail marketing of cigarettes to youths.

In 1998, while the settlement was being completed, tobacco executives appeared before Congress and publicly acknowledged for the first time that their products can cause lung cancer and be addictive.

Experts agree that the Terry report clearly triggered decades of changes that whittled the smoking rate down. But it was based on data that was already out there. Why, then, did it make such a difference?

For one thing, the drumbeat about the dangers of smoking was getting louder in 1964, experts said. But the way the committee was assembled and the carefully neutral manner in which it reached its conclusion were at least as important, said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same time, he and others said any celebration of the anniversary must be tempered by the size of the problem that still exists.

Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking, according to the CDC.

Donald Shopland finds that depressing.

Fifty years ago, he was a 19-year-old who smoked two packs a day while working as a clerk for the surgeon general’s committee. He quit cigarettes right after the 1964 report came out, and went on to a long and distinguished public health career in which he wrote or edited scores of books and reports on smoking’s effects.

“We should be much further along than we are,” the Georgia retiree lamented.