Transcript: Trump Shifts Tone Again On White Nationalist Rally In Charlottesville

President Trump speaks to reporters in Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday.

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President Trump shifted his tone again on the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., while answering questions from reporters on Tuesday.

He said “there’s blame on both sides,” referring to the rally-goers — including neo-Nazis and members of the KKK — and the counterprotesters. In clashes on Saturday at least 19 people were injured and a counterprotester was killed.

Trump had said initially on Saturday there was violence “on many sides.” After much criticism for not specifically calling out white nationalists, Trump named neo-Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists in a prepared statement delivered at the White House. At Tuesday’s press conference in Trump Tower in New York, he shifted his rhetoric again.

Below, read a transcript of the president’s remarks and questions from reporters.


White House via YouTube

TRUMP: Hello everybody. Great to be back in New York with all of our friends and some great friends outside the building, I must tell you. I want to thank all of our distinguished guests who are with us today, including members of our cabinet, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, OMB director Mick Mulvaney and of course our transportation secretary, who is doing a fabulous, job Elaine Chao. Thank you all for doing a really incredible and creative job on what we’re going to be discussing today, which is infrastructure.

We’ve just had a great set of briefings upstairs on our infrastructure agenda. My administration is working every day to deliver the world class infrastructure that our people deserve and frankly, that our country deserves.

That’s why I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process. Just blocks away is the Empire State Building. It took 11 months to build the Empire State Building. But today it could take as long as a decade and much more than that. Many many stores where it takes 20 and 25 years just to get approvals to start construction of a fairly routine highway. Highway builders must get up to 16 different approvals involving nine different federal agencies, governed by 29 different statutes. One agency alone can stall a project for many many years and even decades. Not only does this cost economy billions of dollars but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve. This overregulated permitting process is a massive self-inflicted wound on our country.

It’s disgraceful. Denying our people much needed investments in their community and I just want to show you this, because it was just shown [to] me and I [said], I think I’m going to show it to the media, both real and fake media. by the way. This is what it takes to get something approved today. Elaine, you see that? So this is what it takes — permitting process flowchart. That’s a flowchart.

So that can go out to 20 years, this shows about 10. But that could go out to about 20 years to get something approved. This is for a highway. I’ve seen a highway recently in a certain state, I won’t mention its name, it’s 17 years. I could have built it for four or five million dollars without the permitting process. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars but it took 17 years to get it approved.

And many many many many pages of environmental impact studies.

This is what we will bring it down to. This is less than two years. This is going to happen quickly. That’s what I’m signing today. This will be less than two years for a highway. So it’s going to be quick. It’s going to be a very streamlined process. And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it. Very simple.

We’re not going to approve it. So maybe this one will say … let’s throw the other one away. Would anybody like it from the media? Would anybody like that long beautiful chart? You can have it.

So my executive order also requires agencies to work together efficiently by requiring one lead agency for each major infrastructure project. It also holds agencies accountable if they fail to streamline their review process. So each agency is accountable. We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking, and the permitting process will go very very quickly.

No longer will we tolerate one job killing delay after another. No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hardworking Americans.

Now I knew the process very well, probably better than anybody. I had to get permits for this building and many of the buildings I built — all of the buildings I built in Manhattan and many other places.

And I will tell you that the consultants are rich people.

They go around making it very difficult. They lobby Congress, they lobby state governments, city governments, to make it very difficult so that you have to hire consultants and that you have to take years and pay them a fortune.

So we’re streamlining the process had we won’t be having so much of that anymore. No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay. While protecting the environment, we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways.

We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel. We will create millions of new jobs and make millions of American dreams come true. Our infrastructure will again be the best in the world. We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world. And today we’re like a third world country. We are literally like a third world country.

Our infrastructure will again be the best and we will restore the pride in our communities, our nation, and all over the United States we’ll be proud again. So I want to thank everybody for being here. God bless you. God bless the United States.

And if you have any questions, we have — Mick, you could come up here please. Come on up. Mick Mulvaney. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

REPORTER: Why do you think these CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?

TRUMP: Because they’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country, they’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example, take a look where, excuse me. Excuse me. Take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country.

Now I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. And I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places, you have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.

REPORTER: Why did you wait so long to blast Neo Nazis?

TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts —

If you go back to my … in fact, I brought it. I brought it.

[cross-talk]

As I said on, remember this, on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And then I went on from there. Now here’s the thing —

[cross-talk]

Excuse me. Excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent.

In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman, and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through, I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible, young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said.

And honestly, if the press were not fake, and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you —

[cross-talk]

But unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: The CEO of Wal Mart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?

TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country, look, you take a look, I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president, the country is booming, the stock market is setting records, we have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country, we’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So the head of Wal Mart — who I know, who is very nice guy – was making a political statement.

[cross-talk]

… I want to make sure, when I make a statement, that the statement is correct. And there was no way, there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of REPORTERs. Unlike a lot of REPORTERs —

[cross-talk]

I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts as they started coming out were very well stated. In fact, everybody said, his statement was beautiful, if he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts.

[cross-talk]

Excuse me. Excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement, and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after, with knowledge, with great knowledge. There’s still things. Excuse me. There’s still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the states.

REPORTER: Was this terrorism?

TRUMP: The driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. And that is, you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder, you can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question: Is it murder, is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: Do you still have confidence in Steve Bannon?

TRUMP: Look, look. I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a friend of mine. But, Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him, he’s a good man, he is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon but he’s a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: Senator McCain has called on you to defend your national security advisor H. R. McMaster against some of these attacks —

TRUMP: I’ve already done that. I did it the last time.

REPORTER: And he called on it again —

TRUMP: Senator McCain? Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against Obamacare? Who is Senator? You mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?

REPORTER: Senator McCain said that the alt right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville —

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt right, define alt right to me. You define it. No you define it for me.

REPORTER: Sen. McCain defined them as —

TRUMP: Ok what about the alt left that came charging — excuse me. What about the alt left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this, what about the fact they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news.

That was a horrible day.

[cross-talk]

I will tell you something. I watched those very closely. Much more closely than you people watched it. And you have, you had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now.

You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: Do you think that what you call the alt left is the same as neo Nazis?

TRUMP: All of those people — excuse me. I’ve condemned neo Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. So. Excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups, and you see and you’d know it if you were honest REPORTERs, which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

But they were there to protest, excuse me, you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question, go ahead.

REPORTER: Should statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?

TRUMP: I would say that’s up to a local town, community or the federal government depending on where it is located.

REPORTER: … race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?

TRUMP: I think they’ve gotten better or the same. Look, they’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that because he’d make speeches about it. But I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country, I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.

We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.

REPORTER: Are you putting what you’re calling the alt left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

TRUMP: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left, that came, violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

REPORTER: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides —

TRUMP: Well, I do think there’s blame, yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don’t have any doubt about it either. And, and if you reported it accurately, you would say it.

[cross-talk]

TRUMP: Excuse me. You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group, excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park, from Robert E. Lee to another name.

George Washington was a slave-owner. Was George Washington a slave-owner? So will George Washington now lose his status — are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How ’bout Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Ok, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave-owner? Now we’re going to take down his statue. So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture. And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo Nazis or the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo Nazis and white nationalists, ok? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group too.

REPORTER: You said the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?

TRUMP: No. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before, if you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people. Neo Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest. Because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country. A horrible moment. But there are two sides.

TRUMP: Does anybody have a final —

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill, you didn’t get health care –

TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ll tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to health care. We will end up getting health care but we’ll get the infrastructure and actually infrastructure is something that I think will have bipartisan support on. I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.

REPORTER: Have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?

TRUMP: No, I’ll be reaching out. I’ll be reaching out. I was very, I thought that the statement put out — the mother’s statement — I thought was a beautiful statement. I will tell you, it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific and really under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

[cross-talk]

REPORTER: Will you go to Charlottesville?

TRUMP: I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?

REPORTER: Where is it?

TRUMP: Oh boy. It’s in Charlottesville, you’ll see.

REPORTER: Is it near the winery?

TRUMP: It is the winery. I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place. It’s been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.

REPORTER: What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divide?

TRUMP: Well, I really think jobs going to have a big impact. I think if we continue to create jobs — over a million, substantially more than a million — and you see just the other day the car companies coming in, I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I’m creating jobs, I think that’s going to have a tremendous impact, a positive impact, on race relations.

[cross-talk]

TRUMP: Because the people are going to be working, they’re going to be making a lot of money, much more money than they ever thought possible. And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven’t gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations.

[cross-talk]

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CEOs' Dilemma: Supporting Trump's Agenda, Opposing His Behavior

President Trump speaks during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House in February, including Merck’s Kenneth Frazier (center) and Ford’s Mark Fields. Frazier has resigned from the president’s manufacturing council.

Evan Vucci/AP

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Evan Vucci/AP

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank set off a social media firestorm last February when he voiced some overly positive words about the new administration of President Trump.

“To have such a pro-business president is something that’s a real asset for this country. I think people should really grab that opportunity,” said Plank, whose company makes sports apparel.

On Monday, Plank became the latest corporate CEO to publicly cut ties with the president, giving up his seat on a White House advisory council on manufacturing amid criticism over the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

“There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world,” Plank said in a tweet.

We are saddened by #Charlottesville. There is no place for racism or discrimination in this world. We choose love & unity. – CEO Kevin Plank

— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) August 14, 2017

Others quitting the council are Merck’s Kenneth Frazier and Intel’s Brian Krzanich. Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry group, also announced his departure Tuesday, tweeting, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.”

I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.

— Scott Paul (@ScottPaulAAM) August 15, 2017

And AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also stepped down from the council.

I cannot sit on a council for a President that tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism; I resign, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/ip6F2nsoog

— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) August 15, 2017

“I think these leaders are waking up to the fact their continued silence in the face of mounting evidence of immorality is tantamount to consent,” said Nicholas Pearce, clinical associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The departures underscore the dilemma facing corporate chief executives at a highly polarized and partisan time, said David Ulrich, professor of business at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a partner at the consulting firm RBL Group.

They may share Trump’s pro-business agenda, but find it difficult to ignore his personal behavior, Ulrich said.

“How do you begin to manage the balance between the person and the policy? And I can imagine these CEOs are really struggling to find that right balance between those two things,” Ulrich said.

He noted that corporations have a big stake in policy decisions being made right now, and giving up a seat at the table means having much less influence in Washington.

“It’s pretty easy for a CEO to say, ‘These are my values. You violated them.’ But the CEOs who are smart know, ‘Once I back out of that opportunity to shape policy, the voice that I could have had is now lost,’ ” he added.

Trump insisted Tuesday that he would have no trouble replacing the departed members of the advisory council and dismissed them as “grandstanders.”

And some high-profile companies have said they are staying on the council.

“We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it,” said Alex Gorsky, chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, in a statement released Tuesday.

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts,” said a spokesman for Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison.

The decision to leave is harder for some companies than others.

Among those staying on the council are the CEOs of several major companies that have substantial federal government contracts, including Lockheed Martin and United Technologies.

Given Trump’s tendency to hit back hard against anyone who crosses him, such companies may be especially reluctant to anger the White House.

“In this environment, it’s easier for an executive to release a boilerplate statement condemning hatred than it is to open him or herself or their company up to the president’s Twitter-ranting,” Pearce said.

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British Columbia Will Ban Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunting

Grizzly bear cubs follow their mother in British Columbia, Canada, in 2014. The province has banned trophy hunting of grizzlies beginning at the end of November.


Mick Thompson
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Mick Thompson

In a win for conservationists and environmental groups, British Columbia says it will no longer allow the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the Canadian province starting on Nov. 30.

The new policy blocks all hunting of grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest but still allows people to hunt them for food elsewhere in British Columbia.

Of the approximately 15,000 grizzlies in British Columbia, about 250 are killed by hunters annually, according to government figures.

Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson characterized that level of hunting as “sustainable” in an interview with the CBC.

However, he says the decision to end trophy hunting is “not a matter of numbers, it’s a matter of society has come to the point in B.C. where they are no longer in favour of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.”

This comes on the heels of an election win for the center-left New Democrat Party, beating the more conservative Liberal Party for the first time in 16 years. The NDP had promised to end trophy hunting during the campaign — which the Liberals had reinstated 16 years ago, according to the BBC.

The grizzly hunting season is opening in parts of the province in the next week, the CBC reports. According to the Toronto Star, many of the hunting permits had already been sold before the new government was formed.

The government has yet to spell out the mechanics of implementing the ban. Donaldson said in a statement that the government “will consult with First Nations and stakeholder groups to determine next steps and mechanisms as B.C. moves toward ending the trophy hunt.”

Environmental groups are delighted about the decision. For example, Joe Foy from the Wilderness Committee said that they believe some 4,000 bears have been killed during the past 16 years, and now they are commending the government of British Columbia “for ending this cruel and barbaric sport for good.”

But wildlife advocates are concerned that providing the option to hunt bears for food will create a loophole for trophy hunting to continue.

The Raincoast Conservation Foundation said that “to ensure a so-called food hunt and de-incentivize the killing of grizzlies, all trophy parts of the bear, such as the head, the hide and the paws, would have to be surrendered by hunters to provincial wildlife authorities.” The group added that “virtually no one hunts grizzlies for food.”

Donaldson told the CBC that bear parts that could be used as trophies would not be allowed to leave the province. “Hunters will no longer be able to possess the hide or the head or the paws of the grizzly bear.”

Hunting guides have criticized the decision.

The U.S. has seen several recent policy changes that roll back protections for bears. The Trump administration announced in June that it was removing the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the endangered species list, because the bears’ population has grown, as NPR’s Colin Dwyer reported.

And in March, lawmakers voted to roll back Obama-era hunting restrictions in wildlife refuges in Alaska, as Colin reported. Among other changes, it repealed a ban on baiting bears and wolves.

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Applebee's Gives Up On Millennials After Failed Rebranding Efforts

Applebee’s recently announced it will close more than 130 restaurants by the end of the year, after rebranding efforts failed to attract millennials.

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Applebee’s announced this month that more than 130 of its restaurants will close by the end of the year.

The casual dining chain rebranded itself in the past few years as a modern bar and grill.

Applebee’s executive John Cywinski recently told investors that the company had hoped the effort would attract a new kind of customer.

The chain aimed to lure “a more youthful and affluent demographic with a more independent or even sophisticated dining mindset, including a clear pendulum swing towards millennials,” he said.

Applebee’s wanted to lure millennials with dishes like barbecue shrimp in a sriracha-lime sauce, chicken wonton tacos and a pork, ham and bacon sandwich.

But that triple pork bonanza — and the rest of the company’s makeover — didn’t seem to catch on with customers. Sales at Applebee’s dropped more than 6 percent from last year.

“From my perspective, this pursuit led to decisions that created confusion among core guests as Applebee’s intentionally drifted from its … middle-America roots and its abundant value positioning,” Cywinski said.

In other words, millennials didn’t go for it, and the regulars got turned off. In fact, Applebee’s isn’t the only big restaurant chain struggling.

“You see very weak results from people like Ruby Tuesday’s, Friday’s and Chili’s as well,” says Joe Pawlak of Technomic, a food service research firm. “Consumers are saying that all these people are offering the same food items, the decors are the same, and also that prices have become very high in these places.”

So it may be time for yet another transformation for Applebee’s, if it really wants to stand out in the crowd.

And Applebee’s has taken the first step. The chain announced a return to all-you-can-eat specials and an expansion of the popular 2-for-20 menu.

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Can We Feed the World With Farmed Fish?

A Russian fish farming operation in Ura Bay in the Barents Sea.

Maxim Zmeyev/AFP/Getty Images

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Maxim Zmeyev/AFP/Getty Images

For years, scientists and activists have sounded the alarm that humans’ appetite for seafood is outpacing what fishermen can sustainably catch.

But new research suggests there is space on the open ocean for farming essentially all the seafood humans can eat. A team of scientists led by Rebecca Gentry, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that widescale aquaculture utilizing much of the ocean’s coastal waters could outproduce the global demand for seafood by a staggering 100 times.

Their paper, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, could have significant implications for a planet whose human population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Nearly every coastal country has the potential to meet its own domestic demand for seafood, “typically using only a minute fraction of its ocean territory,” write the authors.

In their research, the scientists analyzed the potential of virtually every square mile of the ocean’s surface for producing 120 different species of fish and 60 species of bivalves – that is, mussels, clams, oysters and scallops. They immediately eliminated ocean waters deeper than about 650 feet, since ocean aquaculture generally requires anchoring floating pens and cages to the seafloor. They sought out areas rich in dissolved oxygen and phytoplankton – essential for bivalves, which filter microscopic food from the water.

The researchers also excluded marine protected areas and regions where floating pens and cages might block shipping lanes and port entries or interfere with oil extraction.

They calculated that marine aquaculture could produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, or about 4,000 pounds per person.

“And we were being very, very conservative in our calculations,” says co-author Halley Froehlich, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara.

Froehlich says it’s not likely that aquaculture will be practiced in every feasible location. “And we certainly would never need so much production,” she says. “That number was really an overestimate to show what the potential is.”

Still, even with a downsized calculation using a much more realistic fraction of the ocean’s surface, the numbers are impressive: The scientists’ math shows that an area of water about the size of Lake Michigan – roughly 1/67th of a percent of the ocean’s surface – could produce about 110 million tons of fish and shellfish per year. That’s about the amount of seafood caught annually by commercial fishermen, and about five times the globe’s current aquaculture production, Froehlich says.

While the production potential of aquaculture is clearly massive, such volumes of fish and shellfish could not be grown without costs. Aquaculture can offer environmental benefits – but only under certain circumstances, and there are many ways in which aquaculture can go wrong.

Salmon farming in British Columbia has been associated with declines in certain streams’ runs of wild salmon, since a parasite called the sea louse that sometimes thrives amid densely raised farmed fish can attack wild fish. (The issue is a contentious one, and scientists, activists and fish farming lobbyists still disagree over how directly salmon farms have impacted wild salmon.)

Many aquaculture operations also rely on wild-caught fish as feed. This has driven overfishing in some places, like Peru, whose anchovy population has been. Shrimp farming operations in Southeast Asia have become notorious for destroying mangrove thickets and pouring harmful effluent into estuaries.

“So, we know and we’ve seen how aquaculture can be done incorrectly, and we’re looking at the potential for improvements,” Froehlich says.

Max Troell, a scientist at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, co-authored an essay published in the same issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution that analyzes Gentry’s and Froehlich’s findings.

“The work of Gentry and colleagues shows that space is currently not a limiting factor for the expansion of oceanic aquaculture,” Troell writes.

But there are other constraints. Growing fish means feeding them, and this, Troell tells The Salt in an email, requires either catching wild fish or growing high-protein vegetable crops on land. Since these are products already consumed by people, Troell notes in his commentary piece, “reducing competition with human food resources will be key for sustainability.”

In a 2014 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Troell and several co-authors assessed aquaculture’s potential to improve the resilience of the planet’s food systems. In that paper they asked, “[D]oes continued growth in aquaculture enhance or undermine the potential of the global food system” to feed humanity?

The jury remains out on that question.

In an email interview, Troell tells The Salt that, if aquaculture production of fish is scaled up dramatically, “[t]he link to terrestrial feed sources will increase,” and so will environmental impacts.

“For filter feeders like mussels, the story is different,” he says.

Unlike fish, they don’t need to be fed, since they filter naturally occurring nutrients and organic matter from the water.

This, says Troell, makes them “very beneficial species to scale up” in aquaculture.

Growing them could even be good for the environment. Froehlich tells The Salt that dense flotillas of shellfish pens could actually mitigate some types of pollution. For instance, such pens could be useful at river mouths, where nutrients from inland farmlands can cause algae blooms that, in turn, deplete the water’s oxygen and create so-called “dead zones” – like the massive one that develops every summer in the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to polluted Mississippi River discharge.

Froehlich is continuing to study aquaculture’s potential to sustainably feed the world, with some focus on different types of feed and how efficiently farmland can be used to help produce fish and shellfish. She notes that “fish are extremely efficient at converting feed material into body mass,” and that some species can turn food into fat, bone, muscle and other tissue at a conversion ratio of nearly one to one. “That’s a pound of feed in, and a pound of fish out,” she notes.

Froehlich believes seafood consumption will eventually replace a considerable amount of land-based meat production, and she hopes to quantify the extent to which this could alleviate agricultural pressures on land and water resources.

“There’s a discussion and a movement of people switching to pescatarian diets,” she says. “So, we want to know, what will that translate into?”


Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco who covers food, agriculture and the environment.

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For India's Oldest Citizens, Independence Day Spurs Memories Of A Painful Partition

Promila Saigal remembers the men in her family tossing her “like a football” from the rooftop of one family home to the next, in a bid to save her from the frenzy that washed over the Indian subcontinent 70 years ago.

Promila Saigal, 76, sits with her husband Anand Kumar Saigal, 85, and recalls the tumultuous days when her family fled their home in Lahore for newly independent India in 1947.

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Saigal was just six when the events of India’s Partition pressed in around her Hindu family’s compound in Lahore.

“I remember very clearly, outside the main road, a mob had collected at 12 o’clock in the night. And they woke us up,” she says.

In the nights that followed, she and other children were moved from one relative’s home to the next. When they finally boarded a train for India, she recalls, “We would be scared because we were hearing stories that they were stopping trains and killing people.”

Her family safely slipped into India. But Saigal, now 76, remembers growing up “terrified of Muslims.”

The stroke of midnight on Aug. 15, 1947, heralded a tectonic shift: India gained independence, ending 200 years of the British Raj, and redeeming, in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, a “tryst with destiny.”

At the same time, Pakistan, cleaved from the Indian subcontinent, was born. As Hindus and Sikhs flooded out toward majority-Hindu India, Muslims streamed into the new Islamic state, formed as a homeland for them.

Slaughter and upheaval followed, as some 15 million people moved between the two countries in one of the largest migrations in human history.

In addition to Hindus and Sikhs already living in the territory that became newly independent India, the country became home to some 7 million more, who made the exodus from Pakistan. Muslims who opted not to join the mass movement in the other direction also remained in India.

Seventy years later, the memories of Partition stir deep emotions and some soul-searching among the last generation of Indians to have witnessed it. Many openly weep while sharing stories. When recalling Muslim friends they left behind, some are moved to tears. Here are a few of their stories.

‘I couldn’t have done it without luck’

By some estimates, as many as 2 million people died during Partition.Dharam Bir Ahuja, 89, was nearly one of them. Nineteen at the time, Ahuja’s narrow escape came when his family of eight was delayed catching a train near the Pakistani city of Sialkot, where they lived. A woman in their group had become ill.

Dharam Bir Ahuja, now 89, was 19 when he and his family crossed into India from newly created Pakistan. He became one of India’s most important officials, Commissioner of the Indian Revenue Service — an achievement Ahuja attributes to “an instinct for survival,” but also luck.

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“She fell sick, so we could not catch the earlier train, and all of us cursed her,” he recalls. “We cursed her – in whispers!”

They anxiously waited to board the next train, only to discover that the one they had missed had been attacked — and the passengers butchered.

“I saw the breasts of the ladies slashed,” Ahuja says. “The penises of the men cut, and the vultures hovering and eating the dead bodies.”

At the end of the train line, they walked across a bridge and entered India. Spent and soaked from the monsoon rains, they kissed the ground.

“We thought that we had reached our so-called new motherland, you see,” he says. “But what we had to go through was, again, a terrible experience.”

Ahuja’s father, a well-to-do factory owner in Pakistan, was reduced in India to commuting three hours a day for a menial job. He’d wanted to start a new business and asked Ahuja’s mother to sell her jewelry.

“She refused,” says Ahuja.

“Nothing doing,” his mother told his father. “This jewelry is meant for the education of my children.”

Under the glow of an oil lamp, Ahuja resumed his studies and passed one of the most difficult exams in India. He was admitted into the elite administrative services and retired in 1984 as the Commissioner of the Indian Revenue Service.

“It’s an instinct for survival,” he says. “But I couldn’t have done it without luck.”

To emphasize his point, Ahuja adds, “Listen, there were plenty of people just like me who didn’t make it.”

In refugee camps, the unlucky succumbed to disease. Some women were murdered by their own families — thrown into wells to “safeguard their honor” from sexual violence, a tactic used by rival communities to humiliate their foes.

Ahuja puts almost everything that’s happened to him since Partition down to luck — beginning with the woman who kept his family from boarding the ill-fated train.

“Only that old lady’s sickness – that made all the difference,” he says. “If she had been all right, none of us would be here.”

‘How could we leave?’

At 107, Mirza Naseem Changezi is reputed to be the oldest resident of Delhi’s Old City, where many Muslims sought refuge in Mughal-era monuments as riots swept the city 70 years ago. Hindus and Sikhs attacked Muslims, who rushed to board overloaded trains to cross into their new country. Changezi’s family opted to stay.

107-year-old Mirza Naseem Changezi (left) sits with his son Khalid Changezi, 60, at their home in the Old City of New Delhi. Changezi is reputed to be the Old City’s oldest resident and says there was never any question of leaving India for Pakistan. The Changezis trace their roots back 23 generations.

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The long-bearded centenarian sits propped up in his bed as the call to prayer wafts from the nearby Jama Masjid, the grand mosque. In a clear voice, he declares that for generations from this spot, his family fought the British to quit India.

“Father, grandfather and great-grandfather — all we wanted was freedom,” he says, surrounded by curios, heirlooms and centuries-old artwork that bind him to this 400-year-old walled city.

Khalid Changezi (left) studies a studies one of the scrolls documenting his family’s longevity in India. The Changezi home is a treasure trove of family heirlooms, pictures, portfolios and documents from long before Partition. (Right) A print owned by the family depicts a festival celebrated in the Old City during the Mughal era.

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Changezi’s son Khalid unfurls a 25-ft. long family tree firmly planting them in India. The elder Changezi says there was never any question of leaving India for Pakistan.

“Would we leave behind the bones, the shrines, the graves of ancestors? How could we leave that?” he says.

‘We’d die fighting’

On the opposite side of the city, a 90-year Sikh asks a similar question — from a different vantage point. Sardar Sampoorna Singh Virk navigated out of newly created Pakistan and into India.

“Who wishes to leave their home? Your birthplace — it’s extremely sad — but we were compelled to,” he says.

Partition split the northwestern Punjab region in two. Most Hindus and Sikhs, like Virk, came to India from western Punjab, which became part of Pakistan — fleeing fields they’d farmed for centuries.

Sardar Sampoorna Singh Virk and his family settled in a home allotted to his family by the Indian government after they’d left behind 800 acres of land in Pakistan.

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Virk explains that his home in New Delhi — an airy, single-story house in what is now a dense urban enclave — formerly belonged to a Muslim who crossed to Pakistan. The Indian government allotted Virk’s family the house and 500 acres, spread across Punjab. It was less than the 800 acres they had to abandon in Pakistan. The new land came in fragmented parcels, and the uncles who used to farm together were separated by long distances.

Virk and his four uncles crossed the new border into India when passions were at a fever pitch.

“People were hanging off the roof of the train, and stuffed inside. They were scared for their lives,” he recalls.

Soldiers escorting them warned everyone to discard all weapons — including the ceremonial daggers worn by Sikhs — before they reached Lahore, a prized city on the Pakistani side of the border that seethed with unrest.

“Everyone had weapons,” Virk says. “A lot of people threw their weapons in the river. We didn’t — because we thought that if someone attacks us, we’d die fighting.”

‘What have we gained?’

Most refugees simply left their homes, locked the doors and never returned. S.K. Sethi’s mother, a Hindu, was escorted from their house in Lahore wearing nothing more than her nightgown and slippers.

“My mother was having tea with my elder brother in the verandah of the house,” Sethi says. “And [the] gate opens and a crowd of about 15 to 20 people walks in, and in Punjabi tells her, ‘Madame, please leave.’ ‘Leave?’ she asked, ‘what do you mean by leave? This is my house’ … ‘No, ma’am, it was your house.'”

A street in Old Delhi leads to one of the four gates of the Jama Masjid, the grand 17th century mosque built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Old City is a Muslim enclave of the capital and a site of unrest during the Partition.

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When his mother insisted on changing her clothes, “Somebody from the crowd says, ‘You will leave from this verandah as you are.’ My mother and brother walked out. Partition had taken place. They had to go.”

The passage of time has not dimmed Sethi’s belief that dividing the subcontinent was sheer folly. Even at 91, he is incredulous.

“What have we gained by Partition? India and Pakistan — what have we gained? There’s bickering every day, there’s fights every day. What for? It just doesn’t sink in,” Sethi says.

‘A wonderful friend’

At his home in New Delhi, 85-year-old A.K. Saigal, a Hindu who came with his family from Lahore, breaks down while talking of an old friend, a Muslim from his boyhood days across the border.

“He was in Islamabad. I rang him on his golden anniversary and I was told – he just expired,” he says.

It’s been several years since that phone call. But even so, Saigal stifles sobs.

“I can’t think of it,” he says. “He’s a wonderful friend.”

Seven decades after the trauma of Partition, what comes across is the humanity of the survivors, their lack of bitterness — and even the desire to know each other again.

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