TOP STORIES:

NEW YEAR

NEW YORK — A sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing revelers cheer and some even kiss as the famed crystal ball drops in a freezing New York City's Times Square to ring in 2014, capping a world-wide wave of celebrations that included a dazzling 30-minute fireworks show in Dubai and a deluge of confetti in London that tasted as good as it looked. By Jake Pearson and David B. Caruso. AP Photos.

UNITED STATES-MIDEAST PEACE TALKS

WASHINGTON — During his tenth round of Mideast shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry will try to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree to the outlines of a final peace agreement, but doesn't expect a "big breakthrough" during his trip to the region this week, a senior State Department official says. By Deb Riechmann and Karin Laub.

SUPREME COURT-GAY MARRIAGE

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah takes its fight against gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the high court to suspend same-sex unions that became legal when a judge struck down the state's voter-approved ban. By Paul Foy.

TRAIN DERAILMENT-FIRE

CASSELTON, North Dakota — A North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the U.S. By Dave Kolpack. AP Photos. AP Video.

HEALTH OVERHAUL

WASHINGTON — All things good, bad and unpredictable converge Wednesday for President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul as the law's major benefits take effect, along with an unpopular insurance mandate and a risk of more disruptions. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar.

SUPREME COURT-HEALTH OVERHAUL

WASHINGTON — Only hours before the law was to take effect, a Supreme Court justice on Tuesday blocked implementation of part of President Barack Obama's health care law that would have forced some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control coverage. By Jesse J. Holland.

GUANTANAMO-PRISONERS RELEASED

MIAMI — Three members of a persecuted ethnic minority from China have been released from Guantanamo Bay and sent to the Central European country of Slovakia, officials say, resolving a diplomatic dilemma that had kept the men imprisoned long after a judge had ordered their release. By Ben Fox. AP Photo.

NYC MAYOR INAUGURATION

NEW YORK — Bill de Blasio is sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City, becoming the first Democrat to occupy City Hall in nearly two decades while vowing to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda for the largest U.S. city. By Jonathan Lemire. AP Photos.

OBIT-MIKE O'CONNOR

MEXICO CITY — Mike O'Connor, a veteran war correspondent who became a tough advocate and counselor for threatened journalists in one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press, has died. He was 67. By Michael Weissenstein. AP Photos.

RETHINKING POT-GREEN WEDNESDAY

DENVER — Police are adding extra patrols around marijuana shops as Colorado prepares to unveil the first legal pot industry in the U.S. on Wednesday. The state will begin recreational sales to anyone over 21, with officials around the world watching. Dozens of state and foreign countries are considering changing marijuana laws. Uruguay has already become the first nation to regulate the drug. By Kristen Wyatt. AP Photos.

TERROR TRIAL LAWYER

NEW YORK — A dying former civil rights lawyer convicted in a terrorism case and sentenced to 10 years is released from prison after prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Prisons made the recommendation to a judge. By Larry Neumeister. AP Photo.

PRIEST ABUSE-APPEAL

PHILADELPHIA — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia provides the bail needed to release a former church official who has been imprisoned for 18 months in the clergy-abuse scandal. By Maryclaire Dale. AP Photo.

UNITED STATES-ARCTIC CHALLENGE

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is racing to keep pace with stepped-up activity in the once sleepy Arctic frontier, but it is far from being in the lead. Nations across the world are hurrying to stake claims to the Arctic's resources, which might be home to 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped natural gas. There are emerging fisheries and hidden minerals. Cruise liners filled with tourists are sailing the Arctic's frigid waters in increasing numbers. Cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route, one of two shortcuts across the top of the Earth in summer, is on the rise. By Deb Riechmann. AP Photos.

DEATH PENALTY-OHIO

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio will use a dose of two drugs untried in the U.S. to put to death a condemned inmate who raped and killed a pregnant woman, according to a decision by the state prison system obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. By Legal Affairs Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

ALZHEIMER'S-VITAMIN E

Researchers say vitamin E might slow the progression of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease — the first time any treatment has been shown to alter the course of dementia at that stage. By Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione. AP Photo.

MEXICO-AZTEC OFFERING

MEXICO CITY — Archaeologists announced Tuesday that excavations for a Mexico City subway extension have turned up what appears to be an unusual Aztec offering: a dog's skull with holes that indicate it was displayed on a ritual skull rack normally reserved for human sacrifice victims. By Mark Stevenson. AP Photo.

CAYMAN-MISSING PASSENGER

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — Cayman Islands authorities were searching waters off the British Caribbean territory's main island on Tuesday for a Canadian passenger who has gone missing from one of the world's biggest cruise ships. By David McFadden.

BUSINESS:

WALL STREET

NEW YORK — The stock market closes out a record year with more all-time highs, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades. By Markets Writer Ken Sweet. AP Photos.

YE-WALL STREET-UNSTOPPABLE STOCKS

NEW YORK — The stock market was unstoppable in 2013. A U.S. government shutdown, fear of a default, the threat of military action in Syria, big budget cuts, and a European country looking for a bailout — any number of events might have derailed the stock market. But they didn't. And if skittish investors jumped out of stocks, they lost out. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell. AP Photos.

With: YE-WALL STREET-WINNERS AND LOSERS; YE-WALL STREET-INSIDE THE MARKET; YE-WALL STREET-BIG DAYS;

YE-WALL STREET-UNSAFE HAVENS

NEW YORK — Being safe left some investors sorry in 2013. That's because some financial assets that are considered safe and steady lost money. After three decades of steady gains, bonds had a bad year. Prices for Treasurys and other kinds of bonds slumped as the U.S. economy improved, investors' nerves steadied and the Federal Reserve prepared to pull back on its huge bond-buying program. By Markets Writer Steve Rothwell.

AIRLINE CEO PREDICTIONS

NEW YORK ) — Millions of people step aboard airplanes each day, complaining about the lack of legroom and overhead space but almost taking for granted that they can travel thousands of miles in just a few hours. Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight: a 23-minute hop across Florida's Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was subsidized by St. Petersburg officials who wanted more winter tourists in their city. The alternative: an 11-hour train ride from Tampa. By Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz. AP Photo.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month on a better outlook for hiring and growth, supporting other signs that show the economy could accelerate in 2014.

BORDER BUSINESS

CHULA VISTA, California — Mexican license plates are common in parking lots of shopping malls in U.S. border cities. They will be even more familiar after Mexico raises its federal sales tax in border regions to match the rest of the country, say merchants and shoppers. By Elliot Spagat. AP Photos.

URUGUAY-PORT

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguayan President Jose Mujica says Brazil will fund 80 percent of a new deep-water port that will get around Argentine efforts to control shipping in the South Atlantic. By Leonardo Haberkorn. AP Photos.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:

MUSIC-BEYONCE-NASA

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — NASA officials say the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster "should never be trivialized" in response to a new song from Beyonce that features an audio sample recorded just after the craft exploded on takeoff in 1986, killing all seven crewmembers. By Chris Talbott. AP Photos.

WEB-SEINFELD'S TALK SHOW

NEW YORK — Jerry Seinfeld loves cars. He's fond of coffee. And, of course, he's a comedian who loves to talk comedy. But the inspiration for his online talk show, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" (wherein he and a fellow comedian crack wise while powered by a car and caffeine), was inspired by an episode of his eponymous 1990s sitcom. By Television Writer Frazier Moore. AP Photo.

EARLY LAGERFELD SKETCHES

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — Half a century after Karl Lagerfeld first drew her in a blue tunic and a plaid, buckled coat, the woman in a fashion sketch for the House of Tiziani still seems ready to saunter off the page and into the street. By Jennifer Kay. AP Photos.