Colin Dwyer

The Syrian war crossed a wretched threshold Thursday, marking seven years since the start of the protests against President Bashar Assad's regime. Within months Assad had sent troops to crush the uprising, sparking a civil war that has gathered antagonists at a rate only exceeded by its human costs — which, by many estimations, have left roughly 400,00 people dead and displaced half the population.

Strap in, purists. This game is about to get a good deal faster.

At least, that's what Minor League Baseball officials are hoping. The league announced Wednesday that it plans to institute some pretty big rule changes for the 2018 season — including beginning extra innings with a runner automatically on second base and, in certain situations, shaving five seconds off the pitch timer the league had already instituted in triple- and double-A ball.

Sure, Norway may have dominated the Winter Games last month in Pyeongchang, handily sweeping the Olympic medal count — but the country has just been knocked from its perch atop another international ranking: the World Happiness Report. The country's Nordic neighbor, Finland, has unseated the Norwegians with a smile.

As of this writing, the Finns are the happiest people in the world.

More than a year and a half after Omar Mateen opened fire at an Orlando nightclub, leaving 49 victims dead and ultimately dying himself in a shootout with police, attorneys delivered their opening statements on the sole person charged in the massacre: Mateen's widow, Noor Salman.

Seven weeks into Turkey's Operation Olive Branch, a mission to clear Kurdish fighters from Syrian regions along its southern border, the Turkish military says its troops and Syrian rebel allies have nearly surrounded Afrin. They announced Tuesday that the central section of the border city and other "critically important areas" have been seized from the principally Kurdish militia known as People's Protection Units, or YPG.

Updated at 5:47 p.m. ET

President Trump is making his first visit to California since taking office, using the whirlwind trip to view prototypes for his signature border wall proposal and promote his defense policies to troops stationed in San Diego.

In an unusual step, President Trump has signed an executive order blocking Broadcom's $117 billion bid to buy Qualcomm. The order released Monday cited "credible evidence" that led Trump to believe the Singapore-based Broadcom, in purchasing America's largest mobile chipmaker, "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States."

A father-son duo from Dallas have been convicted of running a multimillion-dollar scam to convince American Airlines employees they suffered from hearing loss — and to profit off the health care claims they filed for their false diagnoses. The verdict handed down by a jury last Thursday could mean more than 90 years in federal prison each for Terry Lynn Anderson, 67, and his 37-year-old son Rocky Freeland Anderson.

The scam described by prosecutors was fairly simple.

From even Thursday's earliest moments, just after midnight, demonstrators across the world began gathering to mark International Women's Day. In the hours since, there have been marches, rallies, presidential speeches and even a nationwide strike.

They were all inspired by the same celebration, but what demonstrators campaigned for, and how, covered a wide range.

Editor's Note: This post contains graphic descriptions that some may find disturbing.

Peter Madsen, the Danish inventor accused of murdering a Swedish journalist aboard his private submarine, pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday at the start of his trial. The opening comments marked a new phase for a gruesome case that has for months drawn investigation and intense international attention.