Nation & World briefing

Published Apr 29, 2014 at 12:01AM

U.S. graduation rate — The national high school graduation rate has reached a record high of more than 80 percent, but disparities based on students’ racial, socio-economic and disability status remain alarming, according to an annual report by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. An estimated four out of five public high school students obtained their diploma in 2012, according to the report, which used the latest available data from the Department of Education. But figures were lower for minority students. Seventy-six percent of Latino students and 68 percent of African-American students graduated, the report found.

Detroit bankruptcy — Detroit has reached a new, five-year agreement with 14 of its unions, including AFSCME — the city’s largest union — in its bankruptcy case, according to a statement issued Monday by federal mediators who are assisting with the city’s restructuring. The tentative agreement covering 3,500 workers is among a flurry of deals that Detroit has been able to reach in recent weeks as progress toward a completion of its historic bankruptcy reorganization case has intensified. Detroit’s public safety unions, which have formed a coalition in negotiations with the city, are not part of the deal announced Monday, said Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association.

Utah newborn deaths — Prosecutors on Monday charged a Utah mother with six counts of murder in the choking and suffocation deaths of her babies within minutes of their births. Their tiny bodies were found stuffed into cardboard boxes hidden in the garage of her home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. Megan Huntsman, 39, who has three daughters and whose family members said she lived a troubled life, faces a life sentence on each count if she is convicted.

Missing flight — Private companies specializing in deep ocean search will be hired to continue the quest to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Australia’s prime minister said Monday, and the cost could run more than $55 million and take six to eight months. The U.S. Navy’s robotic submarine Bluefin-21 has searched more than 150 square miles of the floor of the Indian Ocean in an area where investigators thought they had detected pings from the Boeing 777’s black box transmitters in early April. We are “baffled and disappointed” that no wreckage had been found 52 days into the search, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference in Canberra, Australia.

Syrian conflict — The Syrian government and rebels struck a rare agreement Monday to restore electricity in Aleppo province, cut off by the opposition for more than a week, in exchange for a cessation of airstrikes by the military. Several rebel groups severed the electricity for the province, demanding that the government cease its bombardment on opposition areas with barrel bombs. The oil drums filled with TNT have ravaged the city of Aleppo and its suburbs for four months and have led to a mass exodus of residents.

Egyptian verdict — The Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and more than 680 other people were sentenced to death Monday stemming from last year’s post-coup violence in the latest mass trial that was denounced in the West and by human rights groups as contrary to the rule of law. The verdicts are not final and are expected to be overturned. Under the law, once the defendants who were tried in absentia turn themselves in — which is all but 63 of the accused — their trials will start over.

— From wire reports