Bill Chappell

A campaign rally for Syria's President Bashar Assad was hit by mortar fire Thursday evening, as rebels struck the event in the southern city of Daraa. At least 21 people died in the attack, which comes weeks before Syria's presidential election.

From Beirut, Alison Meuse reports for our Newscast unit:

"Mortar fire slammed into a pro-Assad electoral tent. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 people were killed in the attack. The dead included a child and six loyalist militiamen.

One day after staging a coup, Thailand's military summoned leaders of the ousted government and other political figures to a meeting Friday. More than 150 people were ordered to convene at the Royal Thai Army auditorium — or risk arrest and possible charges.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET: Ousted PM Yingluck Detained

Thailand's army has detained deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after holding meetings with her and other politicians. She has reportedly been taken to an army base, along with members of her family who were also in the government.

Some 2,000 new trains that were meant to help France expand its regional rail network are instead causing headaches and embarrassment, as officials have been forced to explain why the trains aren't compatible with hundreds of station platforms. The new trains are just a few centimeters too wide to fit.

The country's rail operators say they're spending millions of dollars to modify platforms to accommodate the new trains, which cost billions of dollars. A French newspaper reported on the mix-up Tuesday, saying the platforms were too narrow for the trains to pass through.

A U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria has failed, after Russia and China voted against the measure Thursday.

The resolution seeking accountability for wartime atrocities was introduced by France and had the backing of the U.S.

For our Newscast unit, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports:

"Although more than 60 countries supported the resolution, Russia dismissed the vote as a publicity stunt , once again shielding Syrian leader Bashar al Assad's regime.

Norman Rockwell's The Rookie has sold for $22.5 million at auction Thursday. The 1957 painting of baseball players in a locker room was sold by Christie's auction house — heady heights for a work that first appeared on a magazine that sold for 15 cents.

Update at 12:50 p.m. The Final Price

While the "hammer price" of the Rockwell painting was $20 million, Christie's says the painting's final price is $22,565,000, reflecting a buyer's premium. We've updated this post to reflect the auction house's final calculation.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was pulling his country's troops back from its border with Ukraine. Thursday, NATO officials said they're seeing signs Russia's troops might withdraw, although many soldiers remain near the border.

NATO's leader reports seeing "limited Russian troop activity" close to the border, which could suggest "some of these forces are preparing to withdraw."

Pro-Russian separatists attacked a military checkpoint in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least 13 soldiers and wounding about 30, according to Ukraine's acting prime minister. The country is preparing to hold national elections on Sunday.

A separatist commander told The Associated Press that one of his men also died.

The attack took place near the village of Blahodatne in Donetsk, one of two main areas in eastern Ukraine where separatists say they want to break away from the country and its interim government.

Thailand's army is now running the country. Two days after declaring martial law — and saying it wasn't staging a coup — the military has changed its mind, Thailand's army chief says.

A coordinated attack on an outdoor market in northwest China has left 31 people dead and dozens wounded, prompting promises of a vigorous government response. Bombs and cars were used to inflict damage on people at the market.

The Chinese government called the early morning attack in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, a "serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature," according to The Associated Press. Previous violent attacks have been blamed on the area's Muslim Uighur minority.

Online marketplace eBay says it was the target of a cyberattack in which hackers accessed a database of its encrypted passwords. The auction site says no financial data were revealed — but it's urging its users to update the passwords on their accounts.

EBay says that it hasn't seen any sign of fraudulent activity since the problem was first detected "about two weeks ago." It also said that it stores financial data and customer records in different places and that accounts of its direct-payment subsidiary, PayPal, were not affected by the data breach.

A bill making it a misdemeanor crime to bully anyone from kindergarten age up to 25 years old failed in Carson, Calif., last night, despite receiving unanimous support when the City Council held an initial vote earlier this month. But in its final vote Tuesday, the council axed the measure, which would have been a first for California.

Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified Veterans Affairs records "will be held accountable," President Obama said Wednesday. The president condemned the reported widespread problems at the VA, defending Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Obama spoke after he and Shinseki met in the Oval Office Wednesday morning with White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, who since last week has been detailed to work with the VA. Neither of those men attended the president's news conference.

In an effort to broaden its international appeal, a Japanese college is phasing out its titter-inducing name. Osaka's Kinki University is named for its home region in south-central Japan. But school officials say the name is distracting; they note that foreigners who attend conferences there often make jokes about their visit to the Kinki school.

The Supreme Court will review Missouri's plans to execute Russell Bucklew Wednesday, after Justice Samuel Alito granted a stay of Bucklew's execution late Tuesday night. The inmate has a rare medical condition that his attorneys say makes it likely that a lethal injection could go wrong.

Alito issued his order after a flurry of court actions in the hours leading up to Bucklew's execution, which had been scheduled for just after midnight. An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel suspended his execution Tuesday, but that order was later reversed by the full court.

The world, as you've no doubt noticed, has its problems. But some folks seem to be dealing with them pretty well, according to poll results released Wednesday. Countries in Latin America dominated the top of Gallup's "positive experience index," while Syria set an all-time low.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, after a court found him guilty of embezzling public money. Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, were given four-year sentences; the three were accused of using public funds to pay for work on their own property.

The criminal court in Cairo ordered the three to pay a fine of nearly $3 million.

Did a band from Los Angeles get ripped off by Led Zeppelin? That's the claim in a new lawsuit by representatives of the band Spirit, which played some dates with the British rock legends in their early days in America.

A drug safety agency says that 32 percent of French citizens are regular or occasional users of prescription drugs such as antidepressants and sleeping pills. France's National Drug Safety Agency warns that the pills are prescribed too often.

A White House official says the CIA will no longer use vaccine programs as cover for spy operations, answering health experts' complaints that it had hurt international efforts to fight disease.

The CIA famously used a vaccination program as a ploy to gain information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That effort didn't succeed, and the doctor involved was sentenced to a prison term. But the revelation had immediate effects — particularly in the fight against polio.

After late wrangling that included a threat to withdraw his guilty plea, J. Everett Dutschke accepted a 25-year prison sentence Monday, a year after he was arrested for sending poison-laced letters to President Obama and others.

China says U.S. charges against five Chinese military officials for allegedly hacking into American computers amount to hypocrisy, citing U.S. surveillance and wiretapping. The country's foreign ministry summoned the American ambassador Monday night to complain about the charges.

Federal authorities say a recall has been issued for 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that was shipped for use in restaurants. Detroit company Wolverine Packing issued the recall Monday; the Department of Agriculture says the beef may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The Supreme Court has accepted a case pitting the Department of Homeland Security against a former air marshal, setting up a debate over the imperatives of government secrecy and the public's safety.

AT&T's plan to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion is the latest tectonic shift in the media industry, with many viewing the deal as a response to the pending merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Among business analysts and consumer advocates, response to the AT&T-DirecTV deal is mixed. Here's a roundup of what we're seeing:

Apologizing for a rescue operation that saved only a fraction of the passengers on a ferry that sank last month, South Korea's president said she plans to dismantle the country's coast guard and reform its emergency and safety systems.

President Park Geun-hye announced the shakeup in a televised address to the nation. At times, she wept as she spoke, particularly as she read out the names of passengers and crew members who were killed. Most of those who died were teenagers on a high school trip.

The cat that saved a young boy from an attacking dog became an Internet star this week. Next week, we'll see how Tara the cat does on the ball field: She's been asked to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a local minor league baseball game.

Many of us have stories about old couches — particularly ones we had in college, or shortly after. But not many stories are like the one three roommates in New Paltz, N.Y., can now tell.

After the trio realized their beat-up couch was stuffed with more than $40,000, they decided to return the money to its rightful owner.

It all started when roommates Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Lara Russo realized that the lumps in their couch's pillows were actually envelopes stuffed with money. Just two months earlier, they'd bought the couch for $20 at a Salvation Army store.

The Department of Transportation is ordering General Motors to pay a record $35 million civil penalty for its handling of a recall of more than 2 million vehicles for ignition switch problems. The government says GM violated federal safety laws.

The fine is part of a "consent decree" that's being announced Friday. The agreement also calls for GM to change how it handles review of safety issues.

This post was updated at 8:45 p.m. ET

A 57-year-old man was charged with arson in one of 10 wildfires that have swept through San Diego County this week, burning more than 30 square miles and causing millions of dollars in damage.

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