General Skeptical

General skeptical that bounties led to US troops’ deaths

By Lolita C. Baldor The Associated Press

July 7, 2020 – 3: 15 pm

WASHINGTON — The best U.S. overall for the Middle East said Tuesday the intelligence suggesting that Russia may have compensated Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan was painful, but he is not convinced that any bounties led to U.S. military deaths.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command said in a telephone interview with a small group of reporters that the U.S. did not raise force protection measures in Afghanistan as a consequence of the data, even though he asked his intelligence staff to dig into the subject more.

“I found it rather worrisome. I didn’t find there was a causative connection ,” said McKenzie, who is the very first Pentagon official to speak openly at length concerning the matter. He warned, however, where there have been many reports that it has supported Taliban fighters over the years with weapons and resources that Russia has been a danger in Afghanistan.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, data which Russia offered bounties into Taliban militants for murdering American troops was included in an intelligence brief for President Donald Trump in late February. The White House, however, has denied Trump was briefed at that moment, arguing that the intellect was not plausible enough to attract his attention.

McKenzie reported that while he can draw no immediate connection between any possible payments and U.S. casualties, it is common that intellect isn’t definitive.

“We should always remember, that the Russians are not our friends,” said McKenzie, who is traveling in the Middle East. “They are not our friends in Afghanistan. And they don’t wish us well, and we just need to bear in mind that at all times once we evaluate that intelligence.”

He explained there wasn’t any requirement to beef up security for troops there since the U.S. already takes”extreme force protections measures” in Afghanistan. “Whether the Russians are paying the Taliban or not, within the past several years, the Taliban have done their level best to carry out operations against us”

Just days after the February intelligence briefing, the U.S. signed an agreement with the Taliban, mapping out the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. That date could be nearly 20 years after American forces invaded the country following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaida militants.

Trump had repeatedly said he would like to possess all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. His phone in May to get a quick departure, fueled speculation he wants troops out by the November election, as part of his attempts to end U.S. involvement in what he calls”endless wars.

The U.S. pulled a few million troops out this season, and now has about 8,600 there. Additional troop withdrawal is contingent on the Taliban’s commitment that extremist groups, such as al-Qaida along with the Islamic State group, Be Unable to use the nation as a foundation to carry out attacks around the U.S.

Asked about the potential for pulling more U.S. troops out, McKenzie said he does not feel the conditions allow for a substantial reduction yet.

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Dollar General

This Dollar General worker witnessed 3 armed robberies. The 4th time, he had a gun

In the year before Dave Dukes killed a man who was trying to rob the store where he worked, he’d witnessed three other robberies.

After each of them, Dukes, 28, would say later, he’d asked his supervisors at Dollar General to put in a security guard.

But, according to Dukes, his bosses didn’t do that — though, because of how many robberies he’d been through, they did start sending him out to train employees at other stores.

After the third robbery, Dukes started bringing a gun to work.

Then, in October 2019, the fourth robbery happened.

According to the local prosecutor’s office, a man entered the store with a gun and demanded money from the cashier. When Dukes tried to intervene, the man — Roosevelt Rappley, just 23 years old — pointed his gun at Dukes. Then Dukes pulled out his own gun and shot Rappley, killing him.

    A grand jury in Ohio reviewed the case and found Dukes “acted lawfully under the circumstances,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

    But by then Dukes was out of a job, allegedly having been fired by Dollar General for violating company policy. Dollar General’s 2019 policy said that possession of a firearm on the company premises may result in termination.

    Dave Dukes stands in his lawyer's office in Dayton, Ohio in March. Dukes was a Dollar General clerk who shot and killed a man during an armed robbery. It was the fourth robbery he had witnessed on the job.

    Dollar General declined to say why Dukes was terminated, saying in an email that it does not comment publicly on specific employment situations. The company said it does not retaliate “against employees who make good faith reports of safety concerns.” It also maintains that the safety of its employees is a top priority.

    Rappley’s family is still trying to process his death eight months after the robbery. Rappley’s sister Jasmine Jessery said in an interview that she didn’t hold a grudge toward Dukes. “He was protecting himself,” she said.

    Jessery described her brother as a kind person who had linked up with the wrong crowd. “Everything went sour” then, she said.

    A thriving business

    Business is booming at Dollar General, the chain adding more stores every year than any other retailer in America. That was the case even before the coronavirus pandemic, but Dollar General has been in an even stronger position during the pandemic as price-conscious consumers stock up on essential items.

    Dollar General has kept its stores open since the coronavirus hit, and its stock price has rallied 23% since the beginning of the year even as the S&P 500 has lost 5%. In March, the company announced a goal of hiring up to 50,000 new workers to meet increased customer demand.

    Former executives, store employees, law enforcement officials and retail security experts told CNN Business that while the company’s low-cost, no-frills model might be embraced by Wall Street, it is putting its workers at risk.

      Dollar General stores, which process a high number of cash transactions, are a prime target for armed robberies, they said. Some of the former company officials and current and former employees spoke on the condition of anonymity either to discuss internal conversations or for fear that speaking out would impact their jobs.

      “Every night I was just waiting for there to be a phone call that said, ‘Hey we’ve lost somebody,'” Brian Flannery, who oversaw security at around 2,000 Dollar General stores in the northeast as a divisional loss prevention director from 2011 to 2015, said. “It wasn’t a matter there [of] if you were going to have a bad robbery. It was a matter of when.”

      At least six Dollar General employees have died during robberies since 2016, according to a review of news and police reports. And while the FBI doesn’t specifically track robberies at dollar stores as it does those which occur at convenience stores and gas stations — other robbery targets — police have warned company managers that its stores are vulnerable.

      In a statement in response to this story, Dollar General said, “We employ a number of measures designed to create and maintain a safe work environment for our employees and a safe shopping environment for our customers, all while protecting company assets.”

      The company said its safety and security measures take federal and state laws, retail industry standards and law enforcement recommendations into account and its measures are “designed to prevent, deter and if necessary, respond to criminal activity in our stores.”

      “Our employees are our greatest asset. Their safety and security is of paramount importance,” Dollar General added.

      The problem of robberies isn’t exclusive to Dollar General. In an interview with CNN Business, Jason Hall, a lieutenant with the Dayton Police Department, described local dollar stores as “robbery magnets.”

      He has tracked robberies at local chains including Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General over the last few years — and Dollar General, by far, had the most incidents.

      Lieutenant Jason Hall, photographed in March, says the Dayton Police Department repeatedly made security recommendations to dollar stores in the area but many of those recommendations were ignored.

      In Dayton alone, police were called to 86 robberies at just seven Dollar General stores between 2016 and 2019. Robberies at Dollar General locations accounted for 29% of the 80 commercial robberies in the city in 2019, according to figures provided by the department.

        Dollar General declined to comment on how much it spends annually on crime prevention or any specific measures in its stores to protect workers and prevent robberies “as to do so potentially compromises the integrity of those measures, provides a roadmap to would-be wrongdoers and may place customers and employees at risk.”

        Growing at a price

        As other retailers have struggled in recent years, dollar stores have enjoyed breakneck growth. The Great Recession, slow wage growth and widening inequality in America had all boosted discount retailers. Now the pandemic is as well.

        The two largest players are Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which bought Family Dollar in 2015.

        There are a few differences between the chains. At Dollar Tree, for example, all items are exactly $1. The stores tend to be in middle-class suburban areas.

        Dollar General’s more than 16,000 stores, on the other hand, sell items largely in the $1 to $10 range, meaning there is more cash in registers. That makes stores more susceptible to robberies, according to retail security experts.

        Dollar General stores are predominantly located in rural areas. About 75% of its stores are in towns with fewer than 20,000 people. Todd Vasos, the company’s CEO, has described his core customers as struggling Americans. Dollar General’s primary customers make $40,000 a year or below per household.

        “We do very good in good times and we do fabulous in bad times,” Vasos said on a call with Wall Street analysts in May. “We’re very, very bullish on what post-Covid looks like because…I think we’re very well positioned no matter what this economy does to both our core customer and to the customer overall.”

        Investors like Dollar General because it’s been relentless at making more with less: less real estate, less labor and smaller product sizes than its larger big-box competitors. In its latest fiscal year, Walmart’s US stores had a 5.1% operating profit margin before taxes; Dollar General stores boasted an 8.3% margin — an indicator that Dollar General is more efficient at keeping costs low and turning sales into profits.

          Since 2010, Dollar General’s annual profits have increased five-fold and its stock has surged more than 800%. Its locations have nearly doubled, and now the chain boasts more US stores than Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Home Depot combined. A record 25,000 retail stores are expected to close this year, but Dollar General still plans to open 1,000 new locations in 2020, or roughly 20 new stores a week.

          But the company’s low-cost approach often comes at the expense of employees, former executives said. Efforts to keep costs down have also kept the company’s leadership from wanting to take bigger steps on security, these executives said.

          Visibility inside the stores is often poor for workers because of the design, according to law enforcement officials. Stores tend to be small and crowded, with high shelves and piles of boxes and carts lining the aisles. Some police patrolling outside complain that it’s difficult to see inside because windows are covered with advertisements and signs.

          Dollar General said in an email that “we continually review and, as needed, adapt operating procedures and store layout [and] fixturing.”

          Staffing is intentionally kept at a minimum, often with just one or two low-wage employees on site at any given time, former executives said. And although store registers are often flush with cash because it’s what many customers use to pay, security guards are rarely on the premises.

          The Dayton Police Department says in 2017 it recommended Dollar General keep its windows clear as a security precaution. This store on Dayton's Salem Avenue, which was the site of four robberies between 2018 and 2020, had its windows covered as of March 2020.

          Security guards were viewed as costly to the company’s bottom line, the former executives also said.

          One former Dollar General executive described the difficulty in convincing other company leaders that security guards could deliver a positive return on investment. “We certainly didn’t get a return having somebody standing there and paying $10 or $12 an hour,” the former executive said. “Out of the 13,000 stores when I was there, probably less than 100 stores had some type of outside security.”

          Another of the former Dollar General executives, who focused on security, said he was “heavily chastised” for frequently going over budget on monthly guard expenses.

          Adding staff to stores would have also jeopardized the low-cost model.

          “It’s a low margin business, so you have to have low labor [costs] to make a profit,” said one of the former executives. “Putting more labor in the stores took away from the profit, or you have to raise prices. And there was no appetite to raise prices because it’s a low-price business.”

          The company has invested in interactive security monitoring services. At thousands of stores in higher-crime neighborhoods or that have experienced frequent incidents, cameras are monitored by offsite security agents. The agents can communicate with employees in the store and make public announcements over the loudspeakers letting customers know they are on camera.

          If the agents see a robbery or suspicious activity at the store, they can alert the local police. There are also two-way phones and panic buttons that employees can press to talk directly with a security agent if they are in distress.

          Interface Security Systems, one of the services that Dollar General uses, boasts on its website that its technology helps companies reduce security guard costs by 88%. Dollar General also has used iVerify, another off-site monitoring company. Earlier this year, Securitas Electronic Security acquired the customer contracts of iVerify.

          This Dollar General store on N Gettysburg Ave in Dayton is where Dave Dukes said he experienced four robberies in just a year on the job.

          The remote monitoring systems can be effective at deterring shoplifting inside the store, according to experts. But unlike human security guards who can act as a visible, physical deterrent, they are less effective at deterring robberies, according to police, former employees at iVerify and Interface, and retail security consultants.

          One former iVerify executive said, “it’s rare that you’re going to be looking at a video when the robbery occurs.” He said the remote monitoring was better-suited for investigating robberies after they occurred.

          Securitas, the company that now owns iVerify’s customer contracts, did not respond to request for comment. A representative for Interface said “there is a place for both remote interactive monitoring and security guards in most retail chains” and that its interactive remote monitoring systems with live video and two-way audio were a strong crime deterrent.

          When robberies do occur, some of the former Dollar General executives said, the company offered reactive, short-term measures — such as adding a security guard to a store for a few weeks.

          “It was literally whack-a-mole. You would get the okay to spend cash when there was an incident. A reactive security program in that kind of environment is not what you’re looking for,” said Flannery, the former divisional loss prevention director at Dollar General.

          Dollar General said it disagreed with Flannery’s characterization of its security efforts and that it doesn’t believe “those assertions are supported by facts.”

          The safety concerns take a toll on some workers.

          When Kenya Slaughter works the cash register at a Dollar General in Alexandria, Louisiana, she makes sure she has enough $1 and $10 bills in the drawer, so she won’t have to go back into the safe. When she has to take out money from the safe behind the register, she “strategically positions herself” so she’s not opening it with her back turned.

          Still, potential robbers “know we don’t have security and that people are in there alone,” she said.

          Indeed, Dollar General employees told NBC News in a report last month that they’ve been stabbed, shot and held at gunpoint.

          Significant ‘shrink’

          In recent years, Dollar General has focused on solving another problem.

          Current and former staffers said there was an intense urgency to combat “shrink” — or merchandise lost due to shoplifting, employee theft or inventory errors. In its latest annual report filed in March, Dollar General called the problem “significant,” noting that “higher rates of inventory shrinkage or increased security or other costs to combat inventory theft could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.”

          The sources said they felt that the company prioritized reducing “shrink” over preventing robberies, which had a human toll.

          “In the two years I sat in the executive meetings, I never remember anybody bringing up armed robberies as a problem. We talked about loss of product and store manager turnover,” said one former top Dollar General executive. “The people that are below the store manager level are just a commodity.”

          The obsession with reducing shrink was often turned inward, with Dollar General treating some of its own workers with constant suspicion, said Tracy Vargas, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Vargas worked as a clerk at Dollar General in 2014 and 2015 for her PhD dissertation on dollar stores at Syracuse University. She also interviewed 50 employees from across the country. In her dissertation, she described workers being treated like criminals with surveillance cameras often focused on their activities rather than on customers.

          Dollar General said its “understanding is that Ms. Vargas’s employment with the company was intended solely to validate her preconceived notions regarding the company for purposes of a book that she was writing, rather than in furtherance of serving the customers and communities that rely on us.”

          It added: “We categorically deny the assertions.”

          A 13-foot poster in the store backroom, known as the Shrink Chart, displayed performance statistics including the number of times each employee voided cash register transactions that week, Vargas said. (A large number of voided transactions or price checks could be interpreted by managers as a sign of employee theft.)

          Meanwhile, Dollar General provides little training on how to handle robberies, sources told CNN Business.

          Former store workers, including Dukes and Vargas, described when they were first hired being shown a simulation video of a robbery. There are no hands-on drills and they did not have to review the video annually, some of these sources said. In some stores, signs are posted in back rooms giving employees directions on what to do “should the unlikely event of robbery occur.”

          Vargas told CNN Business that Dollar General employees are “sitting ducks” and “considered to be profit risks to the corporation’s bottom line.”

          “Employees are alone, exposed, and at the mercy of whomever [decides] to walk through the door that day,” she said.

          Law enforcement raises concerns

          In some cities, local officials have urged Dollar General management to take more steps to prevent violent crime. They say their warnings have largely gone ignored.

          Dayton police have prepared reports on crime at local Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores. On February 1, 2017, members of the department presented a Dollar General divisional loss prevention director with a 32-slide PowerPoint deck detailing the factors the department believes to be “enabling factors” in robberies. The factors included blocked windows, high shelves, lack of maintenance outside the stores and lack of security guards in high-incident locations.

          It’s a “fairly large issue for us,” Hall, the Dayton Police Department lieutenant, told CNN Business. “We’ve made a lot of recommendations to try to improve these situations. We have noticed that not many of these recommendations have been implemented or fully implemented.”

          Dollar General said it “enjoys frequent communication with the Dayton Police Department” and that it implemented the department’s exterior maintenance suggestions in 2017. The company claimed the department did not provide “specific store safety and security measures.”

          A representative for Dollar Tree, which owns Family Dollar, said “working with and supporting local law enforcement is absolutely important to us. We continually refine our security program, which includes cooperating with local police departments to share photos and videos to support their investigations.”

          In St. Louis, where there have been “high calls for police service for larcenies, disturbances [and] hold-ups” at Dollar General and Family Dollar in recent years, “implementing security is often suggested and ignored,” said Rich Sykora, an attorney for the city of St. Louis.

          “We will take a fresh look at the St. Louis market and implement the appropriate steps,” a Dollar Tree representative responded.

          In rural Effingham County, Georgia, Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said three of the five Dollar General stores in the area have been hit in recent years. “We don’t call them dollar stores. We call them stop and robs,” he said.

          McDuffie presented a list of safety concerns to Dollar General stores in the county, he said, including recommendations to improve lighting and limit the number of boxes piled up inside the stores, which can make it difficult for officers to see inside. “Put in some security measures,” he urged. “Light the parking lots up.”

          “They say they’re going to do better, but it doesn’t seem to come to fruition,” he told CNN Business.

          And in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, there have been a string of robberies at Dollar General stores over the past year.

          “None of the stores have added outside cameras that could potentially capture the mode of transportation and the direction of travel for suspects,” said Tammy Erwin, a deputy at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina.

          “There are no security officers at any time. There are shifts with only one employee working in the entire store,” she said. She added that she wonders why Dollar General won’t implement “a buddy-system of employees, so that no one is alone in the store.”

          Dollar General’s 2019 handbook of operating procedures says “at a minimum, two employees must be involved in the closing process. For safety purposes, always use the buddy system.” But there is no mention of similar policy for opening stores in the morning or at other hours of the day. The company says it “tries to minimize the time that employees are alone in the store.”

          The company said it has received “no formal safety and security policy change” from the sheriff’s offices in Effingham County, Georgia, and Marion County, South Carolina.

          Dollar General said it was “aware of a single request from a member of law enforcement in St. Louis,” who requested that Dollar General implement facial recognition software from a company “in which we understood the individual to have a personal and financial interest.”

          Deaths on the job

          Family members of Dollar General employees killed during armed robberies and security experts say it’s not just a lack of in-store security measures that are the problem.

          Out of the six Dollar General employees killed since 2016, two were shot as they left stores to deposit cash from the register at the bank.

          Some Dollar General employees take cash deposits to the bank by themselves: The company’s policy in its 2019 store operating procedures says that stores should make one or two such deposits each day depending on their location, and that the deposits can only be made by “key carriers,” or high-ranking employees.

          Ron Holder took a job as a store manager at a Dollar General in Richmond, Virginia, and hoped to work his way up the ranks at the company and become a district manager. But he was killed in his car outside of Dollar General one morning after picking up a cash deposit from the store, according to the FBI. His case is still unsolved.

          Ron Holder (left) and DeQuan Anderson (right) were Dollar General employees who were both killed on the job during armed robberies. (Courtesy Angela/Courtesy Janine Anderson)

          In Houston, 20-year-old DeQuan Anderson was killed in 2017 as he got in his car to bring cash from the store to the bank. His mother, Janine, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The case has gone to arbitration.

          Janine Anderson described her son in an interview as “an all-around good kid” who was active in his church and developed a love of photography in high school. He saved up money to buy a camera and equipment and took it everywhere he went.

          “He always was going to have some type of career in art,” she said. “That was his passion.”

          Before his death, DeQuan had raised concerns about the bank-drop process on multiple occasions, the lawsuit said. But despite previous robberies at the store, Dollar General did not increase its security or hire an outside security company to transport cash to the bank, the lawsuit alleges.

          Dollar General declined to comment on pending litigation.

          Meanwhile, Dukes, the former Dollar General employee in Dayton, Ohio, is trying to bounce back after the October robbery that changed his life. He has had trouble finding work after the shooting. He is hoping to be more present in his kids’ lives.

          “I don’t regret anything that I did,” he said. He was defending himself, he said.

          But Dukes believes the robbery could have been avoided if Dollar General had taken his advice and put in permanent armed security. He hopes company executives will start doing more to protect their employees.

          “They don’t know what’s going on inside these stores every day. They don’t. Store managers are the ones that deal with that every day. But I would tell them that they need to take better care of their staff.”

          Dukes said he repeatedly asked Dollar General to hire security guards, but managers dismissed his requests. He hopes the company will do more to protect its workers.

          Additional camera: Craig Waxman, Jeremy Harlan

          Video graphics: John General

          Supervising producer: Bronte Lord

          Photo editors: Marie Barbier, Brett Roegiers

          Visual editor: Tal Yellin

          Story editors: Alex Koppelman, Annalyn Kurtz, Anjali Robins

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          Business General inspector

          NASA inspector general looking into Boeing moon lander bid after input from agency official: report

          A visualization of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft.

          A visualization of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

          (Image: © Boeing)

          NASA’s inspector general is investigating Boeing, one of the two companies supplying commercial crew vehicles for astronaut flights to the International Space Station,  in relation to a recent contract competition to land astronauts on the moon, according to a Washington Post report.

          According to the June 20 report, a senior official at NASA spoke with a senior Boeing executive about the company’s bid for a commercial moon lander contract, and Boeing subsequently attempted to change its proposal after the deadline for submission had passed.

          Concerned officials within NASA referred the situation to the agency’s inspector general office. NASA leadership ultimately asked Doug Loverro to resign from his position as associate administrator of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate in conjunction with the matter, the report adds.  

          Related: Boeing’s 1st Starliner flight test in photos

          Loverro spoke with following his resignation. “The biggest false rumor, the one that I was most concerned about and I think the agency was most concerned about … was that there was a problem with the commercial crew launch coming up next week that I resigned over, and nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. At the time, rumors were online saying that Loverro had a problem with the lunar lander contract, but Loverro declined to comment on that issue. 

 also asked if the resignation was related to an inspector general investigation into NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis program, which was opened on March 25. 

          “That IG report is an acquisition-related report that was started by the IG just the way they start other things, they select certain things to look into and to see how the agency is doing,” Loverro said. “It’s so completely different. It happens to be contemporaneous, but it’s completely different than anything that would happen that affected this.”

          Boeing did not win the lunar lander contract and the matter is still under investigation, the Post reported

          NASA ultimately chose SpaceX, Dynetics and a Blue Origin-led team in April to develop landers for the agency’s moon program, called Artemis. If all goes to plan with Artemis, the program’s first human landing, the first since NASA’s Apollo program last landed a human on the moon in 1972, will be in 2024. The company that will undertake that first mission has yet to be selected.

          Typically, an inspector general’s investigation takes at least months to complete, and then findings from the investigation could either be sent to NASA leadership for next steps or to the Justice Department if punitive action needs to be taken, the Post says.

          The inspector general, Loverro and Boeing declined to comment for the Post report and none of the allegations have been proven by the inspector general or in court. 

          This news comes as Boeing tries to launch its first commercial crew vehicle for NASA. In December 2019, a key uncrewed test failed and delayed Boeing’s plans to send astronauts to the space station. Boeing and SpaceX received contracts valued at nearly $7 billion collectively for the final phase of the commercial crew program in 2014. SpaceX successfully launched its first crewed flight, Demo-2, last month; the two astronauts on that mission remain in orbit. 

          Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

          Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

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          General Switching

          Switching from general to regional anaesthesia may cut greenhouse gas emissions: Real-life example of hip/knee replacements at 1 hospital over a year illustrates potential

          Switching from general to regional anaesthesia may help cut greenhouse emissions and ultimately help reduce global warming, indicates a real life example at one US hospital over the course of a year, and reported in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

          The evidence suggests that regional anaesthesia provides more effective pain relief, has fewer unpleasant side effects than general anaesthesia, shortens hospital stay, and may be preferred by patients, say the authors.

          But it may also have an important environmental role that is “truly global in nature,” they add.

          Unlike general anaesthesia, it doesn’t use volatile halogenated agents, such as desflurane, or nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases, which can be retained in the atmosphere for up to 114 years, damage the earth’s ozone layer, increasing the risk of global warming and climate change.

          Regional anaesthesia, instead, uses a local nerve block along with intravenous sedatives.

          In 2009, in the USA alone, more than a million hip and knee replacement procedures were carried out, lasting an average of 2 hours.

          If all of these were done under general anaesthetic, that would be the equivalent of 112,000 kg of desflurane and 9000 kg of nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere, calculate the authors.

          That’s equivalent to the greenhouse emissions generated by 3,260,000 lbs of coal burned, or 333,000 gallons of petrol used, or 7,350,000 car miles, or 378,000,000 smartphones charged.

          In 2019, the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York opted to carry out as many hip and knee replacements as possible, using regional anaesthesia. Out of the 10,485 procedures carried out that year, just 4% (419)were done under general anaesthetic.

          The authors calculated that this substitution ‘saved’ the equivalent of nearly 27,000 lbs of coal burned, 2750 gallons of petrol, 60,500 car miles, or 3,110,000 smartphones charged.

          “This certainly is not a complete analysis as we have not calculated how the manufacture of regional anesthetic agents or the impact of the plastics involved in regional anesthetic kits might affect the earth compared with volatile anesthetics,” they acknowledge.

          And not all surgical procedures can easily be switched to regional anaesthesia, they concede.

          But they point out: “Although no definitive data can provide us with the specific contribution of anesthetic gases to the worldwide greenhouse gases, studies estimate that healthcare systems generally are responsible for 5-10% of the national pollutant emissions and the anesthetic gases in the USA contribute to approximately 50-60% of an operating theater’s carbon footprint.”

          They conclude: “Thus, increasing the use of regional anesthesia is potentially good for the climate, improves the quality of care (at least for hip and knee replacements), and may allow individual practitioners to take personal responsibility in the fight against global warming.”

          Story Source:

          Materials provided by BMJ. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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          Annual General

          Annual General Meeting of AB Volvo

          GOTHENBURG, Sweden, June 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — AB Volvo held its Annual General Meeting on June 18, 2020. Due to the extraordinary situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Meeting was carried out through postal voting, without any physical attendance. The Chairman and the President & CEO describe the Volvo Group’s situation and address questions from shareholders ahead of the Annual General Meeting in a presentation that is available on AB Volvo’s website

          The Annual General Meeting adopted the income statement and balance sheet as well as the consolidated income statement and the consolidated balance sheet. The Meeting resolved that no payment of dividend will be made and that the entire amount available will be carried forward. 

          The Board Members, Board Deputies and the President were discharged from liability for their administration during the 2019 fiscal year.

          Matti Alahuhta, Eckhard Cordes, Eric Elzvik, James W. Griffith, Martin Lundstedt, Kathryn V. Marinello, Martina Merz, Hanne de Mora, Helena Stjernholm and Carl-Henric Svanberg were reelected as members of the Board. Kurt Jofs was elected as new member of the Board. Carl-Henric Svanberg was reelected as Chairman of the Board.

          Individual fees payable to the members of the Board remain unchanged, meaning that the Chairman of the Board was allocated SEK 3,600,000 and each of the other members SEK 1,060,000 with the exception of the President who does not receive a director’s fee. In addition, the Chairman of the Audit Committee was allocated SEK 380,000, the other members of the Audit Committee SEK 175,000 each and the Chairman of the Remuneration Committee was allocated SEK 160,000 and the other members of the Remuneration Committee SEK 115,000 each. The Chairman of the Technology and Business Transformation Committee was allocated SEK 190,000 and the other members of the Technology and Business Transformation Committee SEK 160,000 each.

          Bengt Kjell (AB Industrivärden), Anders Oscarsson (AMF and AMF Funds), Ramsay Brufer (Alecta), Carine Smith Ihenacho (Norges Bank Investment Management) and the Chairman of the Board were elected members of the Election Committee. The Meeting resolved that no fees shall be paid to the members of the Election Committee. 

          A remuneration policy for senior executives was adopted in accordance with the Board of Directors’ motion.

          The Annual General Meeting adopted a proposal from the Board of Directors concerning amendments to the Articles of Association, whereby a new section is inserted in the Articles of Association allowing the Board to collect powers of attorney in accordance with the procedure described in Chapter 7, section 4 of the Companies Act and allowing the Board to decide that shareholders shall have the right to provide their votes before a General Meeting. 

          The Meeting further resolved to adopt the Board of Directors’ proposal to reduce the share capital by way of cancellation of the company’s approximately 95 million own shares and an increase of the share capital by way of a bonus issue in order to restore the share capital.

          Minutes from the Meeting including complete resolutions will be available on AB Volvo’s website

          June 18, 2020

          For more information, please visit

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          General solicitor

          Solicitor General Noel Francisco resigns after tumultuous years representing Trump at Supreme Court


          The Justice Department wants the Supreme Court to look at some legacy cases before the lower courts have finished with them.

          USA TODAY

          WASHINGTON – Some of the nation’s smartest and savviest lawyers have represented the federal government at the Supreme Court over the past 150 years. But Noel Francisco has had perhaps the most unique head client: Donald Trump.

          Francisco, 50, who announced Wednesday that he will leave the post next month, spent three years as solicitor general of the United States during a time of non-stop legal tumult.

          Throughout Trump’s presidency, administration policies on immigration, health care and other hot-button issues were challenged repeatedly by states and civil rights groups. Lower court judges blocked many of those policies, often on a nationwide basis. 

          Those skirmishes, many of them fought over the president’s efforts to reduce the flow of immigrants into the U.S., became the central legacy of Francisco’s tenure. His legal strategy: If at first you don’t succeed, head to the Supreme Court.

          “In overseeing federal litigation, Solicitor General Francisco made strategic use of emergency motions to defend important federal programs against improper nationwide injunctions,” the Justice Department announcement of his departure said. “As a result of these successes, some lower courts have begun to curb the erroneous use of nationwide injunctions.”

          Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor who has cataloged Francisco’s won-lost record before a high court that leans conservative, put it another way.

          “The solicitor general’s office has had an unprecedented degree of success in mitigating the effects of these lower court rulings,” Vladeck said, but at the risk of politicizing the job.

          “We’ve seen solicitors general increasingly become more partisan in recent years,” he said, citing the “potential long-term damage to any appearance of independence that the office might previously have had.”

          More: President Trump bets big on Supreme Court to uphold controversial policies after lower court losses

          From the early days of his battle to block travelers from several majority-Muslim nations, Trump lost most of his lower-court battles. Federal district and circuit courts frequently stopped his efforts to build a border wall, block asylum-seekers and penalize municipal governments seen as harboring illegal immigrants.

          More than half the time, Francisco and the elite group of attorneys who represent the federal government before the Supreme Court were successful in getting the justices to stop those lower court orders on an emergency basis – an extraordinary rate of success.

          “He has been a principled and persuasive advocate on issues ranging from the separation of powers to religious liberty to vigorous enforcement of federal immigration law,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

          Francisco was the point man at the high court for Trump’s agenda, arguing 17 cases personally, including most of the major ones. Those included the travel ban, which he ultimately won; the effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which he lost; and the effort to end the DACA program for young, undocumented immigrants, which remains pending.

          “This is not a so-called Muslim ban,” Francisco, who is of Filipino heritage, argued in court. “If it were, it would be the most ineffective Muslim ban that one could possibly imagine.”

          When it came to the DACA program, relied upon by nearly 700,000 people brought illegally to the United States as children, Francisco was more willing to take the heat. “We own this,” he told the justices.

          More: Supreme Court grills both sides in landmark battle over President Trump’s financial records

          In his resignation letter to the president, Francisco highlighted court victories on religious liberty, enforcing immigration laws, and safeguarding executive branch powers under the Constitution.

          “More generally, I believe we have furthered the principle of limited constitutional government,” Francisco said. “Towards that end, your judicial appointments – including the appointment of two Supreme Court justices and almost 200 federal appellate and district court judges – will redound to the benefit of the nation for many years to come.”

          Francisco represented the administration in several  cases affecting the LGBTQ community. He argued that religious objectors should not have to provide goods and services to gay weddings, that the armed forces should be able to refuse transgender troops, and most recently that a federal employment discrimination law does not protect the LGBTQ community. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that it does in a landmark decision.

          The nation’s 48th solicitor general and the first Asian American to serve in the job, Francisco clerked for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia before rising to become a partner at the international law firm Jones Day, a breeding ground for several top Trump administration officials. He previously worked at the Justice Department in the administration of George W. Bush.

          In private practice, he argued and won three high-profile cases before the Supreme Court. He represented former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, whose corruption conviction was unanimously overturned. 

          He represented religious non-profit organizations fighting a government mandate to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, a fight that is ongoing. 

          And he represented a Washington state company that won a unanimous decision against President Barack Obama’s effort to make “recess” appointments to a government agency without Senate confirmation.

          Francisco is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, as is Jeffrey Wall, the principal deputy solicitor general who is likely to fill the top job at least temporarily. Wall, a former partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, once clerked for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

          Among the luminaries to have held the solicitor general’s job were President William Howard Taft; Supreme Court justices Robert Jackson, Thurgood Marshall and Elena Kagan; Archibald Cox, who served as Watergate special prosecutor during Richard Nixon’s presidency; Robert Bork, who fired Cox in the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre” and whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated in 1987; and Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose probe nearly brought down President Bill Clinton.


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          General Inspectors

          Inspectors general ask Congress for help in monitoring coronavirus relief payments

          Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. | Samuel Corum/Getty Images

          Federal watchdogs are asking lawmakers for help after Trump administration legal rulings appeared to sharply limit their ability to monitor more than $1 trillion in coronavirus relief programs — including huge payouts to protect businesses threatened by the pandemic.

          In a two-page letter to several House and Senate committees last week, but disclosed for the first time on Monday, the inspectors general responsible for coronavirus relief oversight said an “ambiguity” in the main coronavirus response law — the CARES Act — allowed administration officials to sharply limit how much of the law’s spending requirements they must collect and report. This narrow interpretation of the law, the inspectors general warn, would dramatically impede their ability to gather information about some of the most expansive programs in the law, from the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program to the $454 billion Treasury fund to protect businesses and industries damaged by the outbreak.

          The legal opinions are the latest squeeze put on inspectors general by the Trump administration, which has gradually chipped away at the ability of internal watchdogs to monitor aspects of the administration’s conduct independently. The letter from the inspectors general, first revealed by The Washington Post, was signed by the Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who leads a panel of inspectors general charged with coronavirus-related oversight known as the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, and its executive director, Robert Westbrooks.

          “We are writing to bring to your attention an issue that could impact the ability of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and federal Inspectors General to provide effective oversight of over $1 trillion in pandemic-related funds, as well as transparency to the public about how those monies are being spent,” Horowitz and Westbrooks wrote.

          At issue is the structure of the CARES Act, which split its major programs between two “divisions” of the law. Division A included most of the major new relief programs like PPP, the economic stabilization program, as well as $150 billion in relief to states and local governments and $32 billion in support for aviation workers. Division B of the law authorized government-wide appropriations for federal agencies involved in coronavirus response. Administration lawyers, in a legal analysis provided to the Treasury inspector general, indicated that the reporting requirements in the law could be applied only to the appropriations contained in Division B.

          “If this interpretation of the CARES Act were correct, it would raise questions about the PRAC’s authority to conduct oversight of Division A funds,” Horowitz and Westbrooks wrote. “This would present potentially significant transparency and oversight issues.”

          Already, there’s bipartisan pushback on Capitol Hill about the administration’s interpretation of the law. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has indicated he’ll support a legislative fix to address the transparency requirement.

          “American taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent,” said a Shelby spokeswoman, Blair Taylor. “Neither the letter nor the spirit of the law limit the accountability committee’s purview in that regard.”

          The chairwoman of the House Oversight Committtee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), accused the administration of “manufacturing legal loopholes” to justify obfuscating independent oversight.

          “Even under the Trump Administration’s flawed legal interpretation,” she said in a statement, “there is nothing preventing it from fulfilling its supposed commitment to cooperation and transparency by fully complying with all requests from Congress and independent oversight entities including Inspectors General, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, and the Government Accountability Office.”

          A Treasury spokeswoman, Monica Crowley, said the administration was already submitting to “comprehensive oversight” by inspectors general, the Covid-19 Congressional Oversight Commission — whose chair has yet to be named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — and the Government Accountability Office.

          “The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee’s scope under the CARES Act covers other programs that are not already reviewed by these overlapping bodies,” Crowley said. “Further duplication of these oversight functions by PRAC would not increase transparency or oversight.”

          In a May interim review of coronavirus spending, the Treasury inspector general faulted this interpretation of the law but described the dispute as an understandable ambiguity.

          “Reasonable minds could differ on Agency Counsel’s legal analysis,” wrote Deborah Harker, the assistant Treasury inspector general for audit.

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          General Inspectors

          Inspectors typical warn Congress that Treasury is perhaps curbing stimulus oversight skills

          (CNN)A central pillar within the oversight of the supreme financial reduction kit in US history has warned lawmakers its authority is perhaps curtailed by a Trump administration honest conception.

          The leaders of a committee of inspectors typical tasked by law with overseeing the sweeping $2 trillion emergency financial restoration kit, identified because the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, stated it faces “doubtlessly important transparency and oversight complications” linked to oversight of the supreme parts of the law because of a honest finding by the US Treasury Department.

          “We are writing to bring to your attention an discipline that can affect the flexibility of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and federal Inspectors Total to give efficient oversight of over $1 trillion in pandemic-linked funds, as wisely as transparency to the public about how these monies are being spent,” Michael Horowitz, the performing chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, and Robert Westbrooks, the committee’s executive director, wrote to four congressional committee chairs in a letter received by CNN.

            The topic, consistent with the letter, pertains to a honest conception drafted by the Treasury Department’s space of business of typical counsel that finds reporting duties possess now no longer lengthen to the half of the law that comprises the $660 billion Paycheck Security Program, as wisely because the almost $500 billion designated for packages and lending services and products to attend mid- and broad-sized companies.

            “If this interpretation of the CARES Act had been moral, it would possibly maybe in all probability well develop questions about the PRAC’s authority to behavior oversight of Division A funds,” the letter states. “This would possibly expose doubtlessly important transparency and oversight complications resulting from Division A of the CARES Act comprises over $1 trillion in funding.”

            The existence of the letter change into as soon as first reported by The Washington Publish.

            Monica Crowley, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department, did no longer straight address the honest conception in a commentary to CNN, but pointed to a wide more than a few of oversight bodies conserving music of the an infinite more than a few of packages contained within the stimulus law. That law, Crowley stated, “ensures that each one Treasury-trip packages are discipline to comprehensive oversight by three inspectors typical, the new Congressional Oversight Commission and the Authorities Accountability Dilemma of job.”

            “The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee’s scope below the CARES Act covers different packages that are now no longer already reviewed by these overlapping oversight bodies,” Crowley stated. “Extra duplication of these oversight functions by the PRAC wouldn’t expand transparency or oversight.”

            “They seem like asserting one component whereas doing precisely the assorted,” Catch. Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, stated in a commentary. “If the Trump Administration is dedicated to rotund cooperation and transparency with taxpayer bucks, it’s miles unclear why it’s miles manufacturing honest loopholes to handbook clear of responding to legit oversight requests.”

            The notification to lawmakers comes lower than a week after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers he would now no longer release the names of recipients of loans from the Paycheck Security Program because of considerations about revealing “proprietary files and, in many cases for sole proprietors and minute companies is confidential files.”

            That comment drew important backlash from lawmakers who stated that files must always be made public.

            Mnuchin, in a tweet on Monday, perceived to backtrack quite on his verbalize, asserting he would be having bipartisan discussions “to strike primarily the most tantalizing balance for exact oversight of PPP loans and appropriate protection of minute replace files.”

            But lawmakers enjoy raised considerations over the Trump administration’s solution to oversight since rapidly after the emergency reduction kit change into as soon as enacted into law.

            When President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act in March, he included a signing commentary suggesting he would ignore several of the oversight requirements, including that the newly appointed particular inspector typical elaborate Congress if the administration refuses to cooperate with requests for files.

            Trump then eradicated the performing inspector typical for the Pentagon, Glenn Pleasing, after Pleasing had been selected to chair the PRAC, the community of inspectors typical who will oversee the stimulus spending.

            Despite the removal of Pleasing, the committee of inspectors typical rapid moved to launch audits and investigations into the money deployed from the $2 trillion stimulus, as wisely as two linked approved pointers that preceded that laws.

              In contrast to some different oversight entities, the style the committee is structured offers it a bonus into launching its oversight actions. Particular person inspectors typical can undertake preliminary audits and investigations into the implementation of the approved pointers. They are then anticipated to coordinate their findings across the committee.

              The committee is made up of 21 members from offices of inspector typical across the federal authorities.

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              General wrong

              Top US general says wrong to appear with Trump at protest site

              By Paul HANDLEY (AFP)  
              7 hours ago in World

              America’s top general said Thursday he was wrong to appear with President Donald Trump in a photo op near the White House last week, staged after the area was forcefully cleared of anti-racism protesters.

              “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of military involvement in domestic politics,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the controversial June 1 incident.

              Milley’s comments appeared likely to further strain the already fraught relations between US military leaders and the White House.

              They came two days before Trump will appear in person at the graduation ceremony of the elite US Military Academy at West Point.

              The ceremony is being held despite the coronavirus pandemic at Trump’s own wish, and he often uses such events to lay claim to his bonds with the military and assert his role as commander-in-chief.

              But relations have frayed over Trump’s move to involve the Pentagon in efforts to quell protests and some looting around the country following the killing of African-American George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.

              – Battle uniform –

              US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal Church after walking...

              US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John’s Episcopal Church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, DC on June 1

              Brendan Smialowski, AFP/File

              Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper were both strongly criticized for participating in what was widely seen as a political show by Trump, who walked with officials from the White House to pose in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, holding up a Bible.

              Minutes earlier, hundreds of peaceful protestors had been forced from Lafayette Park between the White House and the church by police and National Guard troops firing smoke bombs and tear gas-like pepper rounds.

              Milley’s presence was particularly criticized as he was wearing his camouflage battle uniform.

              Normally military officials wear their formal dress uniform when holding meetings in the White House, and for many it implied Milley’s support for Trump’s stated desire to deploy active duty US troops against protesters.

              In a pre-recorded video message, Milley told new graduates of the National Defense University that pictures of him and Esper walking with Trump “sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society.”

              Trump had summoned Milley and Esper to the White House to discuss the extraordinary measure of using active military troops in addition to National Guards to confront protestors.

              Pentagon officials have said both had little time to prepare for the meeting, which caught Milley in his battle uniform and Esper as they were headed to a separate non-public meeting.

              A demonstrator tries to pass riot police as they push back demonstrators outside the White House  Ju...

              A demonstrator tries to pass riot police as they push back demonstrators outside the White House, June 1, 2020 in Washington DC

              Jose Luis Magana, AFP

              Nor did they know ahead of time that National Guard troops were going to clear the park using chemical munitions to force the protestors out, Pentagon officials said.

              Several former holders of Milley’s position blasted him and Esper for accompanying Trump and allowing the military to be politicized.

              “I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes,” said former Joint Chiefs chairman admiral Mike Mullen.

              – Freedom to protest –

              Two days later Esper announced that he would not support Trump’s desire to invoke the rarely used Insurrection Act to call up active troops to deal with the protests.

              That, according to media reports, infuriated Trump, who had to be convinced by White House advisors and senior lawmakers not to fire Esper.

              In his speech Thursday, Milley stressed that US citizens have the constitutional right to protest peacefully.

              “We should all be proud that the vast majority of protests have been peaceful. Peaceful protests mean that American freedom is working,” he said.

              “We in the military will continue to protect the rights and freedoms of all American people,” he added.

              – ‘Total confidence –

              Trump made no immediate comment on Milley’s statement, but it sparked speculation the president could retaliate and fire him.

              Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, normally a firm supporter of Trump, said in a tweet that he had “total confidence” in Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman.

              “I support his statement in both substance and spirit regarding the recent presidential visit to St. Johns.”

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              General Robert

              Why General Robert Lee and General George Meade Had Different Strategies for Waging the Civil War

              Key Point: Both Generals fought well. Lee was excellent, but he did not have the manpower to outlast the Union’s forces.

              All day on July 4, 1863 the Union and Confederate armies stared at each other during the Battle of Gettysburg. Three days of massive attacks had bled the Confederate army until it lacked the manpower to attack again. The Union army’s failure to go over on the offensive is harder to explain.

              In a letter to his wife the next day, Maj. Gen. George Meade justified the reason for his lack of activity:

              “For a day the enemy waited, hoping we could attack so they could play their old game of shooting at us from behind walls.”

              Meade and Lee’s Philosophy

              More than just explicating his lack of aggressiveness, this statement was his philosophy, as well as that of Robert E. Lee’s, for the remainder of 1863. Both generals had seen the futility of frontal attacks at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. Both had seen the success of the attack on the enemy’s flank at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville. Both generals wanted victory without the carnage of a heads-on attack.

              In October 1863, Lee went on the offensive using the strategy that had worked so well for him previously. His initial plan was to assault the right flank of the Union army near Culpeper Court House. That plan failed because Meade rapidly withdrew his army north across the Rappahannock River.

              Rather than abandon the offensive, Lee decided to try again. The second flanking maneuver would find his army striking the Union right and rear near Bristoe Station. Again, Meade frustrated Lee’s plans by withdrawing.

              Both times Lee could have assaulted the Union army. He must have known that the rapid withdrawal had left it somewhat disorganized, and yet he did not press the advantage. He did not want to make a frontal attack, even when the enemy had little time to prepare.

              Meade at the Rapidan

              Meade’s strategy was similar to Lee’s. In September, when he learned that part of Lee’s army had headed for northwest Georgia, he spent two weeks trying to find a way to maneuver around either of Lee’s flanks. In November, he took the offensive twice. On November 7, he crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelley’s Ford. By the time his troops crossed, Lee had pivoted his army about to face him. When the Union army did not attack, Lee withdrew across the Rapidan River.

              At the end of November, Meade tried again. He crossed the Rapidan in hopes of marching around Lee’s right flank. The III Corps lost half a day crossing the river, then blundered into the Confederates at Payne’s Farm. During the night, Lee consolidated his position behind Mine Run. Meade made another effort to circle Lee’s right. Ultimately he failed and withdrew rather than risk a frontal assault.

              This autumn of ’63 military minuet of maneuver and withdrawal ended with the arrival of Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. In the spring, Grant crossed the Rapidan and fought come what may. His strategy of using the superior numbers of his army to crush the Southerners led to repeated frontal attacks. Forced to counterattack to save his position, Lee found his army being destroyed in a war of attrition.

              Image: Wikimedia

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