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The White House Plumbers (Watergate-50 Years Later)

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Some of us are ancient enough to remember the Watergate burglary that brought down the President of the United States 50 years ago, June 17, 1972. The burglary became the ostensible reason for President Richard Nixon’s political downfall. Shortly after the burglary, Nixon’s handlers initiated a series of schemes to insulate the White House from responsibility for the bungled political espionage plot. No one knows if Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in or if he was aware of it beforehand – but we do know that he participated in covering it up or ‘containing’ information once it occurred.

In hindsight, the intelligence gathering mission against the Democrats wasn’t necessary at all and revealed that Nixon’s paranoia had gotten the best of him in the end. Nixon ended up winning the 1972 Presidential Election by a landslide margin against George McGovern. Unfortunately, this incident consumed his remaining time in office and ruined what till then had been a rather impressive presidential legacy. This tale is steeped in intrigue and has been portrayed in various movies and tons of books over the last 50 years. Allow me to provide a small Cliff Notes version for now. It all started with the White House “Plumbers”.

The White House Plumbers: Late in 1971, Attorney General John Mitchell and White House chief of staff H. R. “Bob” Haldeman decided that J. Gordon Liddy should be given the green light to lead an espionage program against the Democrats at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex.

Gordon Liddy had a colorful past and was one of several men referred to as “the Plumbers” for their ability to “stop leaks” in the White House. Amongst White House staffers, these men were referred to by several names: The Plumbers, The Room 16 Project, and more officially, the White House Special Investigations Unit.

The Plumbers were a covert White House unit created to respond to the infamous leaking of the “Pentagon Papers” that revealed the secret U.S. expansion of the war in Vietnam. At the time, that was an enormous embarrassment and the resulting public outcry threatened to impede Nixon’s re-election. There is one thing that every first-term president wants and that is a second term. With that in mind, the Plumbers transitioned their efforts to assisting the Committee to Re-elect the President.

Gordon Liddy became general counsel on the Committee to Re-elect the President and worked with Campaign political-intelligence operations. John Ehrlichman, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs and Special Investigations Unit gave the Okay for Liddy’s intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats during the 1972 election year.

During the pre-dawn hours of June 17, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard Baker and James McCord were apprehended by guards while installing electronic listening devices in the national Democratic Party campaign offices located in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Liddy controlled this operation from another location. A phone number found on the burglars led reporters to E. Howard Hunt, a man that worked for the White House. Soon tips started coming in to reporters within the Washington Post. Bob Woodward, a reporter working for the Post, was assigned the story. He was subsequently informed by a secret source that senior aides of President Nixon had directed these men to obtain information about Nixon’s political opponents. At this point, the story took on a life of its own with unimaginable consequences and intrigue. Woodward began working with a fellow Washington Post reporter, Carl Bernstein on the Watergate case. As time went by, their secret source became known as Deep Throat. But where pray tell did Deep Throat get his information? That piece of the puzzle was a secret that intrigued Washington for the next 30 years. The results of this steady supply of information mesmerized the nation while the U.S. was engrossed in getting out of Vietnam and in the wake of Nixon’s strategic overtures with Mao Tse-Tung’s Red China.

Deep Throat: Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward pursued the Watergate burglary story for two years – stoking the public’s thirst periodically with juicy information coming from within the White House – provided by their informant – Deep Throat. The continuous volume of damning information positively drove the President and his cabinet out of their minds. They could not figure out how the Washington Post was getting the information and accusations and finger pointing mounted.

Soon many of the President’s inner circle began turning on each other. One of them, White House counsel John Dean, fearful that he was being made a scapegoat – resigned. Soon after, he exchanged leniency for testimony against his former Nixon aides. By now, the country was in a frenzy with ongoing congressional investigations revealing wrongdoing and a cover up. As more and more evidence mounted, the scandal eventually implicated many members of Nixon’s White House, culminating in Nixon becoming the first United States president to resign.

Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book about the Watergate drama a few years later entitled, All the President’s Men. It was followed by a movie thriller with the same name starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein. In the book, they noted that key information in their investigation had come from an anonymous informant whom they dubbed “Deep Throat”. The transition of information from the informant to the reporters was rather elaborate and clandestine. Woodward and Deep Throat often met in secret at an underground garage at 1401 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, VA at 2 a.m.

Today, a historical marker is at the location. Interestingly, Deep Throat’s identity remained secret for more than 30 years and was one of the biggest mysteries in American politics until 2003. Woodward and Bernstein insisted that they would not reveal his identity until he died or consented to reveal it. Alas on May 31, 2005, former FBI agent, Mark Felt revealed that he was Deep Throat in an article published in Vanity Fair magazine. Felt was a highly placed FBI agent and had access to all FBI investigative findings surrounding the Watergate drama. His disdain for the Nixon administration prompted his actions. Shortly after Felt’s confession, Woodward and Bernstein corroborated the fact and detailed their relationship with him in Woodward’s book, The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat.

The “Smoking Gun” – White House Tapes: President Nixon secretly recorded tapes of daily conversations and phone calls during his administration – presumably for posterity purposes. The tapes Nixon made of his White House meetings became a central element in the drama when their existence was leaked to the press. Investigators wanted access to them. The White House resisted. Later, the White House gave up some of them grudgingly but refused to release all of them. When one tape was found to have an 18 minute gap, the public immediately assumed the President was erasing key information about the Watergate burglary cover-up.

This prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to direct Nixon to turn over all of the tapes. The result was the discovery of the “smoking gun” long sought by prosecutors. One of the tapes revealed a conversation that occurred just a few days after the break-in in which Nixon discussed with H.R. Haldeman a plan to have the CIA tell the FBI to stay clear of the situation because it involved national security. It proved that Nixon himself was involved in the cover-up. With impeachment looming on the horizon, after being told by key Republican Congressmen they now supported that impeachment, Nixon resigned from office.

When the dust cleared: Watergate is usually considered shorthand for a story about five burglars caught in the midst of a covert operation to impact the outcome of the 1972 presidential election. Yet the reality of the case is obviously much larger than that.

First, the burglars went to jail. J Gordon Liddy — along with Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzales, E. Howard Hunt, Eugenio Martinez, James McCord and Frank Sturgis – were all indicted in 1972 by a grand jury for involvement in the break-in at the DNC headquarters. In 1973, Liddy and former CIA employee James McCord, security director of the Committee to Re-elect the President, were found guilty of conspiracy, burglary and bugging the DNC headquarters. They went to jail. Next the President’s inner circle were found guilty.

The full scope of Watergate boggles our mind. By the time the scandal’s flames had finished consuming Richard Nixon’s administration, 69 people had been charged with crimes, including two of Nixon’s Cabinet secretaries, Attorney General John Mitchell and Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans. Nearly all pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. The White House tapes implicated dozens of companies, from Goodyear to American Airlines for illegally financing Nixon’s reelection campaign. Nixon aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were subsequently convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice by other White House disclosures – largely from John Dean’s testimony. All of the aides served jail time as well.

The evidence that forced Nixon to resign — the famous “smoking gun” conversation — proved that Nixon tried to prevent the FBI from investigating the matter by lying about it. The tapes and subsequent testimonies from aides also revealed that Nixon approved giving hush money to Watergate conspirators. Simply put, that’s obstruction of justice. But how high White House involvement went in planning the break-in was never established. Given the scale and breadth of the crime and corruption that surrounded Nixon’s presidency, it’s all the more surprising that no one was ever charged with ordering the burglary of the DNC.

Today most of the key players in the Watergate drama have passed on but we do have a few that are still with us. Only John Dean survives from the Nixon inner circle, but both reporters, Woodward and Bernstein are still around. Meanwhile, you can be sure the Washington Post and the Watergate Hotel will take time out to commemorate the 50th anniversary Friday on June 17, 2022.

Now you know.

LanceLot Lynk

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West Virginia roadwork may produce Interstate 81 Northbound delays in Virginia

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Roadwork on northbound Interstate 81 in West Virginia at the Virginia state line will potentially cause traffic delays in Virginia.

Motorists should be alert for delays on I-81 northbound in Frederick County, VA., during two periods of pavement repair work in West Virginia. The first period is for preparation work, and the second is for pavement work.

The first work period is 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Wednesday, August 17. Significant traffic delays are not anticipated during this time.

The second work period begins on August 17 around 6 p.m., extending into Thursday, August 18, possibly into the midday hours. Significant traffic delays may occur throughout this period.


In Virginia, traffic accessing I-81 northbound at Exit 323 off of Route 669 (Rest Church Road) will be stopped at the end of the on-ramp before entering I-81. This will accommodate anticipated slow or stopped traffic on I-81 at this location.

The Virginia Department of Transportation will monitor traffic back-ups. If back-ups become significant and sustained, the following alternate routes will be recommended.

  • Interstate 66 or Route 7 to Route 340 northbound through Warren and Clarke counties
  • I-81 exit 310 to Route 37 (Winchester bypass) to Route 522 northbound in Frederick County.

Variable message boards along the northbound I-81 and westbound I-66 corridors will alert drivers of traffic delays and alternate routes as needed.

Additional roadwork on northbound I-81 in West Virginia is anticipated to occur in the coming weeks, with potential traffic delays into Virginia.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at http://www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located at http://www.VirginiaDOT.org.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany, and Bath counties.

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17th Annual Route 11 Yard Crawl will bring thousands to the area

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Bargain hunters can break out the fanny packs Saturday morning as the 17th Annual Route 11 Yard Crawl begins at 7 AM. The event is always held on the second Saturday in August and covers over 43 miles of yard sales and business sales along the Old Valley Pike, U.S. Route 11. According to the event’s website, the official crawl is from New Market (I-81 Exit 264) to Stephens City (I-81 Exit 307).

The Route 11 Yard Crawl has become a huge draw for bargain hunters and a source of revenue for residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations participating in the well-attended event.  Localities see revenue added to their coffers through lodging, meals, and sales taxes.

Following a break during the Covid pandemic, the Yard Crawl Scavenger Hunt returns this year, with an app, the Free Traipse App.   By visiting 15 of the 43 businesses, participants can get an official Yard Crawl t-shirt and be entered into a drawing for a $100 gas card. Download the free app here.

Sarah Paul, a Middletown resident whose home is along the Rt. 11, has had yard sales in the past, but won’t this year.  She said, “We’ve sold things every couple of years, but for me, the best part is rocking on the porch and people-watching!”


Mrs. Paul’s daughter, Elise, could not contain her enthusiasm, saying, “Yard Crawl? Fun!  Money!” Elise’s sister, Abigail chimed in, “It’s great because you can get rid of the stuff in your house you need and make a profit!”

Elise Paul, 10, checking out the bargains at a previous Crawl.

 

Tina Maddox, of Strasburg, says, “My husband and I have been going to the yard crawl every year since it started. We’ve weathered the blazing hot weather to gully washers and everything in between. We’ve come home with truckloads and there was a time we had to come home, unload and go out again.

My favorite story is from several years ago when we stopped at a house where two gentlemen were swinging on their front porch swing. My husband went up and sat down right in between them and asked them how they were doing. After they got over being dumbfounded, they chatted briefly before we left. Every year after that, we would go there and do the same thing. We all looked forward to it each year. Recently my husband met up with one of those men in a job in a surrounding area.  Small world!”

Alex Shaw, a Stephens City native who now lives in Durham County, NC relayed, “Last year’s Yard Crawl was my first one back in almost 10 years. It was so much busier and so much more overpriced junk than I remembered from my earlier years going.

I used to love going so much, and found many wonderful treasures in the past, but I most likely won’t make the trip this year.”

A number of local businesses will have special discounts and sales during the event.  Those offering “Crawl Specials” will display gold mylar balloons outside their business.  Shoppers can expect specials such as half-price or ‘buy one get one” (BOGO) items, sidewalk sales, freebies, event-related items, drawing for prizes, and more.

Teresa Lamb, with Front Royal business Strites Doughnuts, says she will be selling her tasty wares on Rt. 11 at Dixie Glass and Mirror beginning at 7 AM.

The official Yard Crawl t-shirts are collectible, with each year featuring a different color.  This year’s 17th Crawl t-shirt is a royal blue heather and costs $15 and $20, depending on size.  They can be purchased at these locations:

  • Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation in Middletown
  • Edinburg Mill Museum in Edinburg
  • Main Street Classics in Stephens City
  • Route 11 Potato Chips in Mt Jackson
  • The Flea Market in Edinburg
  • The Strasburg Emporium in Strasburg
  • Shenandoah County Chamber of in Woodstock
  • Shenandoah Valley Flea Market in New Market
  • Travelers Treasures in Woodstock

The Route 11 Yard Crawl is a collaborative effort between Shenandoah County Tourism, the County Chamber, and the Towns of Strasburg, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Middletown, and Stephens City.

For more information on the Crawl, inquire about vendor spaces available, or participating businesses, visit www.Route11YardCrawl.org or call 540-459-2542.

 

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Senator Tim Kaine visits George Banks Blvd

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On August 11, 2022, Senator Tim Kaine visited George Banks Blvd and met in the front yard of Cornelia Banks, along with her family, and friends.

On Saturday, June 25th, friends, neighbors, and town officials gathered to officially open George Banks Boulevard on the Town of Front Royal’s north side from East 13th to 16th Street near Edgemont and Scranton Avenues.

 

 

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Belle Grove to host Jerome Bias as an artist-in-residence

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Belle Grove Plantation will host North Carolina furniture maker, Jerome Bias, as an artist-in-residence August 27-October 2.

Mr. Bias has been making period furnishings and studying southern decorative arts for more than 20 years. He was a joiner for Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem and has been a presenter at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, and with the Slave Dwelling Project.

His interest in working at Belle Grove, and at other sites of enslavement like it, is to bring attention to the skilled and talented craftspersons who had significant roles in shaping Southern decorative traditions. These furniture pieces represent the local areas in which they were made, and became a way for the makers, though enslaved, to survive and thrive. Learning and demonstrating these furniture making techniques and skills has been a way for Mr. Bias to connect with his enslaved ancestors, get a glimpse at the pain, trauma, and joys that they experienced, and begin a process of healing. His current project is reproducing pieces of furniture from six areas of the United States in which his family was enslaved, including a buffet from South Carolina, and a china press from Louisville, Kentucky.

Jerome Bias Woodworking (photos by Sean Rowe / Courtesy of Belle Grove)


While at Belle Grove, Mr. Bias will have both indoor and outdoor workshop spaces where visitors can learn about the pieces he is making, their history, and the history of the craftspersons who inspire him. He will be demonstrating during Belle Grove’s Wine Festival on Saturday, August 27, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thereafter, he will be doing demonstrations Wednesday-Sundays when Belle Grove is open (10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. Sundays). For a specific schedule, please visit bellegrove.org/calendar/artist. Access to these demonstrations will be free of charge.

Another way Mr. Bias has connected with experiences of his ancestors is learning about the foodways of enslaved communities. He will share his experience and talents with hearth cooking during a free program by the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Park Ranger Shannon Moeck, “Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of the Enslaved Cook Judah.” It is Sunday, September 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the historic kitchen of the Belle Grove Manor House. Attendees of the program will see first-hand the wide variety of skills, intense labor, and personality characteristics that Judah had to have in order to be the head cook.

Jerome Bias Cooking

Support for Mr. Bias’s residency has been provided through the Interpretation and Education Grants of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Belle Grove is delighted to host Mr. Bias for this residency, and we are excited to share his craft and insights on African-American history with our guests, ” said Executive Director Kristen Laise.

Belle Grove is actively researching and interpreting the African American history of the site and honoring the lives of those enslaved and free. More information may be found at
bellegrove.org/about/enslaved. Some of the stories of the people enslaved at Belle Grove are featured in a monthly newsletter found at virtual.bellegrove.org.


About Belle Grove—Belle Grove Plantation is located off Route 11 at 336 Belle Grove Road just south of Middletown, Virginia, and is conveniently situated to I-81 (exit 302) and I-66. Belle Grove Plantation is a non-profit historic house museum that is a National Trust for Historic Preservation historic site (www.savingplaces.org). It is also one of the legislated partners in Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/cebe).

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Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Virginia Opossum

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Photos / Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

Do you know what a baby opossum is called?

Baby opossums are called joeys!

This litter of orphaned joeys came to the Center as tiny, eyes-closed babies after their mom was hit by a vehicle.

Joeys take a lot of work to raise, requiring 5-6 feedings per day, constant cleanings, and lots of enrichment. But everyone in this group is now fully weaned and eating on their own, and they will be moved out to larger, pre-release enclosures soon!


Adult female Virginia Opossums traditionally have litters of babies beginning in February and another in late spring. Each litter can produce as many as 13 babies (though we typically see closer to 5 or 6).

Most of the joeys we admit come to us on hit-by-car moms. Please make sure to watch your speed and pay attention while driving. Do not expect wildlife to simply get out of your way. Though many are hit at night, nocturnal mothers are also foraging during the day to support their large families!

If you see a hit opossum on the roadside or accidentally hit one, and are in a SAFE area to pull over, please check to see if they are alive or if you see any movement in the pouch. Look around for slightly older joeys that may be walking near the body. If the mother is alive or if there are living babies, please call a licensed rehabilitator right away. We are available 9-5pm, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help!


Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for August 8 – 12, 2022

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The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.

*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.

INTERSTATE 66
Mile marker 0 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).

Mile marker 8 to 7, westbound – Right lane closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).


INTERSTATE 81
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Right shoulder closures for utility work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday (August 13).

PRIMARY ROADS
Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Shoulder closures for utility work in the area of Route 664 (Whipporwill Road), 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through August 19.

SECONDARY ROADS
No lane closures were reported.

Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.

Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

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