Etc...

Hey, got room for one more?

Imagine the surprise of prison guards in Latvia last month when they looked out the front door of the facility and recognized a convict who'd escaped five years ago ... when he had just 10 months left in a sentence for burglary. Sergei - we'll call him that because the penal system does - wanted back in because trying to balance honest jobs with worry over being caught was proving too stressful. He was readmitted to finish the remainder of his term and perhaps another three years for breaking out.

Taking the minimum to the max: highest hourly wages

Despite Congress's failed attempt last week to raise the federal minimum wage, 13 states already mandate a basic minium hourly pay higher than the current national minimum, which has been $5.15 since 1996. The most generous: Washington State, whose $7.35 rate is even higher than the $7.25 that US Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts suggests for national adoption in three increments over 26 months. The states with minimum wages higher than the federal rate, in dollars per hour:

Washington $7.35
Oregon 7.25
Alaska 7.15
Vermont 7.00
California Massachusetts 6.75
Illinois 6.50
Maine 6.35
Hawaii 6.25
Delaware 6.15
New York 6.00
- US Department of Labor/ Associated Press

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