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Mr. Obama (and family) goes to Washington

CHICAGO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. President-elect Barack Obama returned to Chicago from his family holiday vacation for a few days before moving his family to Washington, aides said.

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Obama departed his native Hawaii Thursday, after spending 13 days there with his wife, Michelle, their daughters and several friends from Chicago and their families, The Washington Post reported.

During his last stop at an area gym, Obama told a crowd of onlookers, "I wish I could hang out with you, but I've got to go home."

The Obamas were scheduled to spend about 48 hours in the Windy City before moving to Washington Sunday, in time for daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, to begin classes Monday at Sidwell Friends School, the Post said.

The future first family will call the Hay-Adams Hotel home until Jan. 15, when the Obamas will move into Blair House. After Obama is to be sworn in as the nation's 44th president Jan. 20, he and his family will call the White House home for at least four years.

The Hay-Adams facility has 21 suites, including a Presidential Suite, the Post reported, and is about 200 steps away from the White House. The Presidential Suite's midweek rate of $5,000 a night reportedly will be paid with private transition funds.

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Ghana constituency finally begins voting

ACCRA, Ghana, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Voters in Ghana's Tian constituency began casting their ballots Friday in an election to determine the government's next president.

However, the African Elections Project said the ruling National Patriotic Party, which lost the recent parliamentary election in the constituency, was boycotting Friday's vote, AllAfrica.com reported.

Tain is the last of Ghana's 230 constituencies to cast ballots in the runoff between National Democratic Congress candidate John Atta Mills and the NPP's Nana Akufo-Addo. Its voting was delayed because of difficulties in delivering election materials.

The commission said Sunday's balloting was so close that the Tain results could determine the outcome and declined to declare a winner.

The National Patriotic Party tried to get an injunction to prevent the electoral commission from announcing results of the presidential election but a judge ruled the party needed to give notice of its legal action to the commission and NDC officials, the African news agency said.

Atta Mills and Akufo-Addo were forced into a runoff when neither received the required 50 percent of the vote during the first round of presidential elections Dec. 7.


Two die in Joliet, Ill., plane crash

JOLIET, Ill., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Two people died in the crash of a small plane at the regional airport in Joliet, Ill., police said.

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Joliet police Lt. Edgar Gregory said the plane was in flames on the runway but it was unclear whether it was on fire before hitting the ground Thursday night, the Northwest Indiana Times said.

It was believed that the pilot was attempting to land.

The victims had not been identified but the Chicago Tribune said the plane, a single-engine Lancair 360, was registered to Stuart Seffern at his business address, Lantzair Flyers Inc., in Madison, Wis.


Disabled man overlooked overnight on bus

NEW YORK, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A severely disabled New York City man spent 17 hours trapped alone on a dark, frigid school bus after being abandoned in a parking lot, police said.

Bus matron Linda Hockaday was charged Thursday night with reckless endangerment. She said she left Ed Wynn Rivera sleeping in his seat "because she was late for church," police sources told the New York Daily News. The driver wasn't charged. Sources said it was Hockaday's job alone to account for each passenger.

Rivera, who is 22 but reportedly has the mental capacity of a toddler, sat strapped in his seat all night on New Year's Eve as the temperature plunged to 15 degrees, one of the season's coldest levels, the Daily News said.

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He smiled when his family found him Thursday morning, the newspaper said. Police failed to find him the night before.


Group tries to lower digital TV costs

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A consumer advocacy group said it will petition the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to try to lower the costs of digital television sets.

The petition expected to be filed Friday asks the federal watchdog to revise its rule for digital TV patent licenses, arguing that TV manufacturers charge too much to use the technology, which drives up prices for the TV sets, The Washington Post reported.

U.S. television buyers pay about $30 more per digital set than consumers in other countries, the Coalition United to Terminate Financial Abuses of the Television Transition said, because electronics makers are being overcharged to use the technology for digital tuners and converter boxes, among other things, and passing along the prices to consumers.

"The costs hit the poorest Americans the hardest and place hugely disproportionate burdens on Americans who rely on free over-the-air broadcasting to watch television," the coalition said in its petition.

The coalition said it also plans to file complaints Monday against companies it says demand higher-than-necessary royalties for use of digital television patents.

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Digital televisions sets first were available for sale in 1998 after the FCC approved U.S. standards for the technology. With a nationwide migration to digital TV planned for Feb. 17, many consumers are buying digital sets because analog TVs won't work without a converter box.

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