North Carolina congressional elections to proceed as scheduled with same maps, court rules

WASHINGTON — North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts will remain in place and so will the Nov. 6, 2018, election, a federal three-judge panel ruled Tuesday.

The panel ruled last week that the districts are unconstitutional due to “partisan gerrymandering” designed to produce 10 Republican seats. But, with the election only two months away, the plaintiffs in the case — the North Carolina chapters of Common Cause and The League of Women Voters — argued that it was too late to change the maps despite their victory.

On Tuesday, the court agreed.

“We conclude that there is insufficient time for this Court to approve a new districting plan and for the State to conduct an election using that plan prior to the seating of the new Congress in January 2019. And we further find that imposing a new schedule for North Carolina’s congressional elections would, at this late juncture, unduly interfere with the State’s electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout,” the court wrote in a four-page order.

North Carolina redrew its congressional districts for the 2016 elections after maps drawn in 2011 were declared unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering by a panel of federal judges. Both sets of maps were drawn by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature.

The judges have ruled that the current congressional districts cannot be used after the 2018 elections.

— McClatchy Washington Bureau

Man who lost child in Parkland shooting says Brett Kavanaugh snubbed his handshake

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A gun control advocate whose daughter was killed in the Parkland massacre says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ignored him and wouldn’t shake hands Tuesday during a break in a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill.

A video of the hearing appears to show Kavanaugh turn and walk away as Guttenberg tries to speak to him.

“Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended,” Guttenberg wrote on Twitter. “Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”

Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was one of the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Raj Shah, deputy press secretary for the White House, wrote on Twitter that Kavanaugh was unable to shake hands because security intervened.

“As Judge Kavanaugh left for his lunch break, an unidentified individual approached him,” Shah wrote. “Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened.”

But Guttenberg told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that account is not accurate.

“He turned away and moved quickly when I was said who I was,” Guttenberg said. “Then security came by.”

Guttenberg said he was attending the hearing at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

— Sun Sentinel

Rep. Rod Blum faces House Ethics Committee inquiry

WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee has taken up an inquiry into Iowa Republican Rod Blum. The case was referred from the Office of Congressional Ethics on July 19 and the Ethics Committee will announce a course of action before Dec. 17, according to a release.

In February, The Associated Press reported that Blum violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his ownership role in a new company and that his top federal staffer was featured in a false testimonial promoting the company’s services.

Blum is considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents up for re-election. He will face Democratic state Rep. Abby Finkenauer in November.

— CQ-Roll Call

Monitor: Russian strikes on Syria’s rebel-held Idlib kill 12

BEIRUT — At least 12 civilians were killed when Russian airstrikes hit Syria’s Idlib province Tuesday, a monitoring group said, as the United Nations looked for ways to avoid a bloody battle over the country’s last rebel-held region.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented 45 Russian strikes in the triangle of western Idlib, the Ghab Plain in the countryside of Hama and northeast Latakia.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the observatory, said Russian warplanes last hit these areas on Aug. 15.

The watchdog said the deaths included five children killed in strikes on the town of Jisr al-Shoughour, while 30 civilians were injured in strikes targeting areas at the outskirts of the town.

Jisr al-Shoughour, which was seized by Islamist insurgents in 2015, is located on a road between the city of Aleppo and the coastal city of Latakia, which is a main stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad and home to the largest Russian airbase Hmeimim.

Activists believe that the first stage of the government’s offensive on Idlib province will target Jisr al-Shoughour and nearby areas, in order to reduce the risk of rebel shelling on the coastal areas.

The spokesman for the rebel National Liberation Front, Naji Mustapha, earlier confirmed that raids and government shelling hit seven villages in the countryside of Idlib and targeted the villages of al-Sirmaniyeh and Zaynoun on the Ghab Plain in the countryside of Hama.

The province of Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by an al-Qaida-affiliated group.

— dpa