National briefs: High school grad rate rises

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WASHINGTON -- The nation's high school graduation rate is the highest since 1976, but more than a fifth of students are still failing to get their diploma in four years, the Education Department said in a study released Tuesday.

Officials said the steady rise of students completing their education is a reflection of the struggling economy and a greater competition for new jobs.

"If you drop out of high school, how many good jobs are there out there for you? None. That wasn't true 10 or 15 years ago," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The national dropout rate was about 3 percent overall, down from the year before. Many students who don't receive their diplomas in four years stay in school, taking five years or more to finish their coursework.

Some 3.1 million students nationwide earned their high school diplomas in the spring of 2010, with 78 percent of students finishing on time. That's the best since a 75 percent on-time graduation rate during the 1975-76 academic year.

College shooting wounds 3

HOUSTON -- A shooting at a Texas community college wounded three people Tuesday and sent some students fleeing for safety while others with medical training helped tend the wounded.

Harris County Sheriff's Maj. Armando Tello said authorities had detained a person of interest.

Authorities also thought there could be a second shooter, according to a law enforcement official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing case.

Pa. ex-pastor convicted

STROUDSBURG, Pa. -- A former pastor awaiting trial in the 1999 death of his first wife was convicted Tuesday of fatally bludgeoning his second wife nine years later.

Arthur "A.B." Schirmer, 64, was called the "sinister minister" by a prosecutor who said he clubbed Betty Schirmer on the head with a crowbar, then loaded her into their car and staged a low-speed accident in an effort to conceal the crime.

Mr. Schirmer was convicted of first-degree murder and evidence tampering, bringing an automatic life sentence without parole. He maintained his innocence, and his attorney pledged to appeal.

NYC therapist sentenced

NEW YORK -- An unlicensed therapist who was a prominent member of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York City was sentenced Tuesday to 103 years in prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a young woman, beginning the attacks when she was 12.

The therapist, Nechemya Weberman, 54, a member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg, did not react as the judge sentenced him. He was found guilty of engaging in various sexual acts during therapy sessions that were meant to help the girl become more religious. The abuse lasted three years.

Also in the nation ...

The co-owner of a now closed strip club, Ryan Walker Grant, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for a failed plot to hire hit men to kill Arlington, Texas, Mayor Robert Cluck and a Dallas lawyer who handles cases involving adult businesses for the city. ... On Tuesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was given another term as Democratic national party chairwoman.

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