Nation briefs 02/11/03

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Dell's 'Steven' arrested on drug charges

NEW YORK -- Dude! The actor who gained fame and a cult following as the slacker "Steven" in commercials for Dell computers was arrested buying a small bag of marijuana, police said.

Benjamin Curtis, a 22-year-old New York University drama student, was arraigned Monday on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. The charge assumes a suspect is not carrying more than a "use amount" -- enough to roll several marijuana cigarettes.

Police said he was arrested Sunday night on the Lower East Side after officers on a drug detail spotted him buying a small bag of marijuana from Omar Mendez, 19. Mendez faces drug sale and possession charges.

At the arraignment, Criminal Court Judge Ellen Coin advised Curtis that his case will be dismissed, and his record expunged, if he avoids arrest during the next year.

Ventura hospitalized for blood clot in lung

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Jesse Ventura was admitted Tuesday to a hospital for treatment of a blood clot in his lung, and was in stable condition, his spokesman said.

Spokesman John Wodele said the 50-year-old governor was being treated with blood thinners and was in good spirits.

Wodele said Ventura woke up Tuesday with discomfort in his chest area. He went North Memorial Hospital in suburban Robbinsdale after seeing his primary physician.

Ventura canceled his public schedule for the next couple of days and was to spend the night in the hospital.

N.M. man with bubonic plague leaves hospital

NEW YORK -- A New Mexico man who was hospitalized in New York City for more than three months with bubonic plague left the hospital to fly home on Monday, a spokesman said.

John Tull left Beth Israel Medical Center at about 7 a.m., hospital spokesman Mike Quane said. Tull was admitted to Beth Israel on Nov. 5.

Tull, whose feet were amputated due to tissue damage, will begin physical therapy in Albuquerque, N.M., Quane said.

Disease investigators believe Tull and his wife, Lucinda Marker, contracted plague from infected fleas on their Santa Fe, N.M., ranch. They became ill after arriving in New York on Nov. 1 for vacation.

Trial set in 'racist rhyme' Southwest Airlines lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A judge has set a trial date in a discrimination lawsuit filed against Southwest Airlines by two black passengers who were upset when a flight attendant recited a version of a rhyme with a racist history.

Grace Fuller, 48, and her sister Louis Sawyer, 46, were returning from Las Vegas two years ago when flight attendant Jennifer Cundiff, trying to get passengers to sit down, said over the intercom, "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

The sisters say the rhyme was directed at them and was a reference to its racist version that dates to before the civil rights era: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; catch a n

-- by his toe."

Sawyer said fellow passengers snickered at the rhyme, which made her feel alienated.

The sisters are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil last week dismissed the sisters' claims of physical and emotional distress but set trial for March 4.

Cundiff, who is white and was 22 at the time, said she had never heard the offensive version of the rhyme. She said she learned the Southwest version from co-workers and used it as a funny way of getting passengers to sit down.-- From wire reports

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