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So, how did you guys find us?

When law-enforcement officers get together to talk shop, here's a story that might give them a smile. In Waedenswil, Switzerland, early one morning this week, a couple of teen-agers were caught on the street with burglary tools and the loot they'd allegedly stolen from two automated teller machines and a doctor's office. The cops were alerted by an alarm on the first of the ATMs. They arrived too late to catch the culprits in the act. But a fresh snowfall was on the ground, so they simply followed footprints from ATM No. 1 to No. 2, to the doctor's building, and were still on the trail when they caught up with their prey.

We need to talk

In the small Dutch city of Wageningen, meanwhile, another cop recovered a cellphone that had been stolen minutes before from his unattended patrol car. Then he caught the thief, who was lingering nearby, trying to look innocent. How? By borrowing another phone and placing a call to his own, which rang in a pocket of the culprit's clothes.

Renting? You've probably noticed it's getting costly

The gap between what Americans earn and the cost of rental housing apparently is growing. A key indicator: the "national housing wage," defined as the amount a full-time employee must earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the local market rate for no more than 30 percent of his or her income. According to the latest annual report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, it now is $15.21 an hour, or triple the federal minimum wage. The 10 least affordable states, and what such a renter in each needs to earn, per hour, from the coalition's report for 2003:

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1. Massachusetts $22.40
2. California 21.18
3. New Jersey 19.74
4. New York 18.87
5. Maryland 18.85
6. Connecticut 18.00
7. Hawaii 17.02
8. Alaska 16.75
9. New Hampshire 16.49
10. Colorado 16.29

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