The mysterious e-vite sent to a few privileged conservatives invited the faithful to a "private dinner meeting" in Arlington last Thursday with "best-selling British historian" David Irving.
"When you RSVP, you will be given directions to an Arlington, Virginia restaurant (walking distance from the Court House Metro Stop) and three meal choices," the e-vite read.
Perhaps such security and secrecy are understandable. Irving, the author of works on Hitler and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, is a well-known Holocaust denier who has claimed that Jews were not killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz. (He once famously said, "More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.")
Reston resident Peter Gemma, the event's organizer, said the dinner drew 95 attendees of a World War II study group he runs. Gemma is a former Arlington Republican activist who is now affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has been described as a white supremacist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Irving, Gemma said, "has caused waves in the establishment by uncovering documents and evidence some historians don't like to admit."
Irving lost a highly publicized libel case in 2000 when a British judge ruled that he had "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" when he wrote that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust.
Gemma declined to name the restaurant where Irving spoke.
"I'd rather not give the location," Gemma said. "There's always somebody out there who wants to make trouble."
Feet-First Into Fitness
Flush with pride after being named the "Best U.S. Walking City" by the American Podiatric Medical Association, Arlington County officials now fancy themselves experts on Virginia's growing obesity rate.
In a news release sent out last week, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D) said he would be available to discuss how Arlington, as a haven for walkers, is "already dealing with Virginians' growing waistlines."
How, you ask?
In January, Fisette announced a plan to improve county residents' health by promoting walking and biking and other healthy lifestyle choices.
Perhaps the "Mind Readers of America" should also be presenting Arlington with an award. Fisette's to-do list preceded the release of federal statistics that showed the percentage of obese Virginians is growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the nation.
You might be wondering whether any of those would-be dieters live in Arlington. Officials with the Virginia Department of Health say they aren't yet able to break down the numbers by locality.
Nevertheless, Fisette says Arlington is primed to promote healthy bodies, being chock-full of walking and biking opportunities -- certainly more, he says, than communities that may look pastoral but lack opportunities for people to use their feet instead of a car.
Arlington walkers mean business. Just log on to www.walkarlington.com, where the first message that greets you reads: "Please turn off your computer and go for a walk."
"Everyone thinks a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs and subdivisions is green and healthy," Fisette said. "The reality is the design of that neighborhood is not conducive to your personal health in most instances. . . . Many of those communities don't even have sidewalks."
Take that, Fairfax County.
Political Treats Promised
As if Northern Virginia's dogs -- who already have their own happy hours and lobbying group -- didn't have enough help already, along comes Laura Mandala, a Democratic candidate for the General Assembly who recently unveiled her platform for "dog owners rights" at a campaign rally.
Mandala -- one of six Democrats in a crowded primary field vying for the seat from which Del. Marian Van Landingham is stepping down -- believes there are "serious issues confronting dog owners that are rarely addressed," according to one recent press release.
(Apparently Mandala wasn't paying attention when a squadron of Arlington County's finest was mobilized to find an alleged dog-poisoner who had left hot dogs tainted with antifreeze at a local dog park. Or when the Health Department's crackdown on alfresco doggie dining in Alexandria last spring resulted in a protest march attended by more than 150.)
In addition to tax relief and women's rights, Mandala wants to "champion" this neglected and downtrodden minority by campaigning to allow dogs greater access to Virginia beaches, hotels and outdoor restaurants.
"Having broadened access for dogs in hotels will give thousands of Virginians the opportunity to be with their pets when they travel and save our dogs from being put in the equivalent of prison cells for extend [sic] periods while their masters are out of town."
The news release continues: "Mandala is a serious candidate who has championed women's and business issues for years."
If you have an item for Odds & Ends, e-mail Annie Gowen at email@example.com or Leef Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.