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Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has his first clear lead nationally over John McCain (R), according to results of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll released Wednesday. Fifty-three percent of the likely voters responding expressed a preference for Obama; 43 percent favored McCain. Two weeks ago, McCain held a 49 percent to 47 percent lead.

Tens of thousands of residents who'd evacuated Galveston, Texas, streamed back Wed-nesday, many for the first time since hurricane Ike slammed into their island Sept. 13. Galveston still has only limited public services, and people who live in the hardest-hit west end were being told they could only assess the damage, not stay overnight.

Without fanfare, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed the state's $144.5 billion budget late Tuesday after a bitter partisan fight over how to close a massive deficit. The spending plan was a record 85 days overdue. Meanwhile, a new report on the economy projects the state's unemployment rate will rise to 7.4 percent by year's end and remain there throughout 2009.

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All agencies of New York City's government were ordered to cut spending by 2.5 percent between now and the end of the fiscal year next June. Citing a drop in tax revenues, Budget Director Mark Page said the city must reduce outlays by $500 million. A $1 billion cut will be necessary in fiscal 2010, he said.

With a 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians, the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox clinched another berth in Major League Baseball's postseason playoffs. The team earned at least the American League wild-card slot. The victory Tuesday night also eliminated the New York Yankees from the playoff picture for the first time in 14 years.

Less than two hours before his scheduled execution Monday night, the US Supreme Court granted a stay to a Georgia prison inmate for the 1989 slaying of a police officer. It will remain in effect while the justices consider Troy Davis's appeal for a new trial. Since his conviction, seven witnesses have recanted their testimonies.

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