Mary Schapiro, President-elect Obama's new pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission as its effectiveness is being questioned, would become the first permanent chairwoman of the agency if confirmed. She served six years as an SEC commissioner and now is the CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities and brokerage industry's self-policing organization.

Bernard Madoff, the money manager accused of a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, is free on $10 million bail, but must wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his movements. Congress said it will begin an inquiry in January on the government's failure to detect his alleged fraudulent practices.

To ensure security and response readiness at the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 11,000 US troops will work the event, according to Gen. Gene Renuart, who's in charge of domestic defense. Some will provide air defense and medical support.

For the second time in recent days, a Western storm dumped a mix of snow and heavy rain on southern California and Nevada, including a cloak of white on the Las Vegas Strip. The conditions closed highways, grounded flights, and caused the Tijuana River along the California-Mexico border to overflow.

Liquefied coal could have a greater effect on global climate change than oil, scientists attending the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco said Wednesday. According to one estimate, liquefied coal releases 40 percent more carbon dioxide than oil when burned.

"Slingin' Sammy" Baugh, the last surviving charter Pro Football Hall of Famer and the NFL's 1943 leader in passing, punting, and interceptions, died Wednesday in Rotan, Texas.

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