TOP STORIES:

OBAMA-BUDGET

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, acting on a newfound confidence in the economy, calls for a surge in government spending, setting up a certain clash with Republicans who insist that federal spending must be held in check. By Josh Lederman.

AP Photo.

CONGRESS-KEYSTONE

WASHINGTON — Defying a presidential veto threat, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate approves a bipartisan bill to construct the Keystone XL pipeline to Canada's tar sands, setting up another battle with the White House over energy and the environment. By Dina Cappiello.

AP Photos.

MISSING NYC BOY

NEW YORK — Searching fervently for a missing 6-year-old boy named Etan Patz, police jotted a teenage shop worker's name among those of many people they met, never expecting the clerk would become their suspect more than three decades later. By Jennifer Peltz.

AP Photos.

With:

BC-US--AP EXPLAINS: Etan Patz's Disappearance

BALLOON CHALLENGE

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Two pilots in a helium-filled balloon on a record-setting journey across the Pacific Ocean enter the final leg of their trip Friday as they travel along the California coast for an expected landing somewhere in Mexico. By Susan Montoya Bryan.

AP Photos.

MEXICO-HOSPITAL EXPLOSION

MEXICO CITY — Concern quickly turned to panic as the sour smell of propane seeped in and a vapor cloud grew outside the emergency room entrance to the maternity hospital. A gas tanker truck's crew began yelling warnings, and then a mammoth explosion shattered the morning, wrecking most of the hospital while killing two people and injuring 73. By Alberto Arce and Peter Orsi.

AP Photos, videos.

BRAZIL-STRAY BULLETS

RIO DE JANEIRO — More than a dozen people minding their own business in Rio de Janeiro have been struck down by stray bullets from gunbattles in recent weeks, unnerving this city that is hosting next year's Olympics. By Brad Brooks and Yesica Fisch.

AP photos.

MEXICO-PINATAS-PHOTO ESSAY

MEXICO CITY — A Mexican party isn't complete without a colorful pinata stuffed with candies, and competition is fierce among the families that make the papier-mache figures. With photo essay by Rebecca Blackwell.

BRAZIL-PETROBRAS

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian prosecutors say a kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras involved at least $800 million in bribes and other illegal funds. They expect that figure to grow as they keep investigating.

ARGENTINA-PROSECUTOR KILLED-Q&A

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — More than a week after prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found with a bullet in his head, there are more questions than answers about his mysterious death. By Peter Prengaman.

AP Photo.

With: ARGENTINA-PROSECUTOR KILLED.

VENEZUELA-GENERAL

NEW YORK — A dissident Venezuelan general who has been in hiding for nearly a year emerges for a public appearance in New York appealing for help from the United Nations. By Claudia Torrens.

AP Photos.

DARK DEALS

SANTA URSULA, Mexico — When the U.S. backed construction of a hydroelectric dam in southwest Mexico, it envisioned a project that would power the area in Oaxaca state and stir the economy. But residents complained dynamite blasting cracked homes and construction tainted drinking water, and defeated the $30 million project supported by Washington's little-known Overseas Private Investment Corporation. By Peter Orsi and Ronnie Greene.

AP Photos.

BUSINESS:

UBER RAPE LAWSUIT

SAN FRANCISCO — A woman who says an Uber driver raped her in New Dehli, India, accuses the company in a lawsuit filed in U.S. court of failing to properly investigate the alleged assailant's background. By Paul Elias.

ARTS and ENTERTAINMENT:

SUGE KNIGHT-DEADLY ACCIDENT

COMPTON, California — Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight accidentally runs over and kills a friend and injures another man as he flees attackers in a Los Angeles suburb, his lawyer says. By Raquel Maria Dillon.

AP Photos.

OBIT-ROD MCKUEN

NEW YORK — Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81. By Hillel Italie.

AP Photos.

SPORTS:

AARON HERNANDEZ

FALL RIVER, Massachusetts — Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez went on trial on murder charges, watching from the defense table as prosecutors said DNA on a shell casing and security-camera video from his own home connect him to the crime. By Michelle R. Smith.

AP Photos, video.