Judge approves new congressional maps

A Florida judge on Friday approved the new congressional maps redrawn by Republican legislative leaders in a lawsuit over gerrymandering and ruled that he would not order a special election in affected districts.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said the 2014 midterm elections would proceed on Nov. 4 using the state’s existing maps, despite previously ruling that two of the congressional districts were unconstitutional.

His ruling last month had clouded the outcome of congressional races, holding out the possibility of delays in elections in the largest U.S. swing state.

Under court orders to fix the maps, the Republican-controlled legislature last week approved minor changes affecting seven of Florida’s 27 congressional districts in a hastily convened special session.

In July, Lewis ruled that Republican leaders had conspired to rig the boundaries to protect the party’s majority in Washington.

— Reuters

Reid sorry for jokes at Asian business event

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) apologized Friday for jokes he made about Asians during a luncheon of business leaders in Las Vegas earlier this week.

Reid was addressing the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday when he told the audience, “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.”

When another man was summoned to the podium, he grabbed the microphone and quipped, “One problem I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

The incident was captured on video by a tracker, posted on YouTube and distributed to reporters by America Rising, a Republican opposition research firm.

Reid later issued a statement saying, “My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”

— Associated Press

State sues Oracle, execs over health exchange

The state filed a lawsuit Friday against Oracle Corp. and several of its executives over the technology company’s role in creating the troubled Web site for the state’s online health insurance exchange.

The lawsuit, filed in Marion County Circuit Court in Salem, seeks more than $200 million in damages and alleges that Oracle officials made false statements, breached contracts and engaged in “a pattern of racketeering activity.”

Oracle was the largest technology contractor working on Oregon’s health-insurance enrollment Web site, known as Cover Oregon. The public Web site was never launched, forcing the state to hire hundreds of workers to process paper applications by hand. The Web site’s failure became a political problem to Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who is running for reelection.

— Associated Press

Chief of investigations at jail steps down

The head of internal investigations at New York City’s embattled Rikers Island jail complex resigned Friday amid intense scrutiny over civil rights violations and inmate deaths.

Deputy Commissioner Florence Finkle’s departure came weeks after federal investigators released a blistering report that criticized the jail system for poor accountability, a “deep-seated culture of violence” and “excessive and inappropriate” solitary confinement.

Finkle, 52, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday. City spokeswoman Marti Adams said no replacement for Finkle had been named.

Finkle’s role at Rikers included setting standards for staff performance and professionalism and overseeing investigations of possible staff misconduct, including excessive use of force.

— Associated Press

Teen held over threat to bomb school: The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and local police arrested a 16-year-old Utah boy accused of making bomb threats and ransom demands over Skype that shut down the first day of classes at his former high school, authorities said Friday. The threats warned that unless a $10 million ransom were paid, multiple explosive devices would detonate on the Westlake High School campus in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday as some 2,200 students returned to class after the summer vacation. A search of the school, 35 miles south of Salt Lake City, found no explosives and classes resumed the following day, police said.

— Reuters