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A photo released by the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal, shows Thai police officers examining the slain elephant. (AP)

Elephant Featured In Film 'Alexander' Killed By Thai Poachers

Jul 11, 2014

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Poachers in Thailand killed a 50-year-old elephant who appeared in Oliver Stone's 2004 film Alexander, before crudely hacking off the animal's giant tusks, according to The Bangkok Post.

The Asian elephant, named Phlai Khlao, was used in scenes from the movie starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie. The animal had also been part of ceremonial performances for Thailand's royal family.

Phlai Khlao was found dead on Friday morning, apparently poisoned before its tusks were removed.

In a photograph that appeared in the newspaper, monks chanted over the elephant's colorfully draped body as incense was burned as part of a burial ceremony.

The Post says that police, soldiers and local officials near the ancient capital of Ayutthaya outside Bangkok had already taken one suspect into custody and were searching for others, believed to be "local youths, probably drug addicts," the newspaper said.

The detained suspect, identified as Naret Wangkalung, 32, is a former mahout, or elephant handler, who was fired from his job because of drug problems, the Post says, quoting law enforcement officials.

As NPR's Christopher Joyce has reported recently, demand for ivory has spiked in China, sparking an increase in poaching in Africa. Poaching Asian elephants is also a problem, according to the World Wildlife Fund, although most of the illegal ivory appears to come from Africa.

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Luis Suarez will wear the number 9 for Barcelona. (FC Barcelona)

Liverpool Unloads 'The Biter,' Sending Suarez To Barca For $128 Million

Jul 11, 2014

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Uruguay's fans hold up cut-out images of forward Luis Suarez in Rio last month. The striker's World Cup ended in embarrassment, but he'll have a chance to start over in Barcelona.

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Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan striker who became headline news in the U.S. after biting an Italian player during the World Cup, is moving to a new club. He'll play for Barcelona, after the team reached terms with Liverpool in a transfer widely reported at 75 million pounds, or more than $128 million.

We'll remind you that free agency doesn't exist in European sports leagues the way it does in the U.S., so the transfer fee is simply for the sale of Suarez's contract.

Suarez, 27, will reportedly sign a five-year deal with Barcelona, where he'll join elite players Neymar of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina. The deal was confirmed Friday by Liverpool, where Suarez played for two years.

"We would like to thank Luis for his contribution and the role he played in helping bring Champions League football back to Anfield," the Liverpool club said in a statement. "Everyone at Liverpool Football Club wishes Luis and his family well for the future."

Suarez thanked Liverpool's fans in a statement of his own.

"It is with a heavy heart that I leave Liverpool for a new life and new challenges in Spain," he said. "Both me and my family have fallen in love with this club and with the city."

Because of the punishment dealt out by FIFA, soccer's governing body, Suarez is still under a four-month ban from the sport for his conduct during Uruguay's defeat of Italy. As a result, he won't be able to train with Barcelona until late October. Suarez has issued an apology for the incident.

The Barcelona Football Club says that Suarez "is not just a prolific scorer, he also has a strong competitive spirit and a powerful figure, and he's coming to Barça in search of even more."

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Luis Suarez will wear the number 9 for Barcelona. (FC Barcelona)

Top Stories: Ukrainian Attacks; Israel-Palestinian Violence

Jul 11, 2014

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Uruguay's fans hold up cut-out images of forward Luis Suarez in Rio last month. The striker's World Cup ended in embarrassment, but he'll have a chance to start over in Barcelona.

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Dozens Of Ukraine Troops Reportedly Killed By Militants.

— Israel And Hamas Keep Up Attacks, Ignoring Calls For Peace.

— Mississippi Child Thought Cured Of HIV Shows Signs Of Infection.

— Germany Calls For 'Honest Foundation' In Relations With U.S.

And here are more early headlines:

Kurds Won't Participate In Iraqi Government After Leader's Remarks. (Reuters)

Florida Judge Overturns State's Congressional Redistricting Map. (Miami Herald)

Washington State Wildfires Force Evacuations. (Seattle Times)

U.N. Appoints Third Mediator As Syrian Envoy. (Deutsche Welle)

Brazilian Police Search For Suspect In World Cup Ticket Scalping Case. (AP)

Multi-Story Thermometer Lit Again In Southern California. (KPCC)

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, on Friday. Steinmeier will meet Secretary of State John Kerry this weekend to discuss allegations of U.S. spying. (AP)

Germany Calls For 'Honest Foundation' In Relations With U.S.

Jul 11, 2014

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Uruguay's fans hold up cut-out images of forward Luis Suarez in Rio last month. The striker's World Cup ended in embarrassment, but he'll have a chance to start over in Barcelona.

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Germany's foreign minister said his government's decision to ask the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave was inevitable given the newest allegations of spying, but he said he wants to renew the friendship between the two countries based on an "honest foundation."

Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that the decision to expel the U.S. intelligence official "is the right decision, a necessary step and a fitting reaction to the break of trust which has occurred."

"Taking action was unavoidable, in my opinion. We need and expect a relationship based on trust," the foreign minister said, according to Reuters.

"We want our partnership, our friendship, to be renewed on an honest foundation," Steinmeier told reporters in Berlin. "We are ready for that in any case."

As we reported Thursday, the request for the U.S. station chief's departure involved two cases of espionage allegedly involving the U.S. and amid the fallout from the surveillance of Germans by the National Security Agency.

"The expulsion and the suspected cases of espionage come at a delicate time for U.S-German relations. Ties between the allies have been strained since revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the agency spied on Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel."

Deutsche Welle says that "Both Steinmeier and US Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to attend the latest round of talks on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna this weekend. The German foreign minister said he would express his concerns to his US counterpart when they meet in the Austrian capital."

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Ukrainian soldiers man a checkpoint about 30 miles from Donetsk, Thursday. Government officials said Friday that a rocket attack had killed as many as 30 soldiers. (AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens Of Ukraine's Troops Reportedly Killed By Militants

Jul 11, 2014

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Uruguay's fans hold up cut-out images of forward Luis Suarez in Rio last month. The striker's World Cup ended in embarrassment, but he'll have a chance to start over in Barcelona.

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Separatists in Ukraine reportedly used a rocket-launching system to shell government troops Friday, in an attack that an official says might have killed 30 soldiers. The deadly strike in eastern Ukraine comes after days of steady gains against the rebels by Ukrainian forces.

From news agency Interfax in Ukraine:

"About 30 servicemen are thought to have been killed in a shelling by militants using Grad multiple rocket launchers of the units of the Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation (ATO) forces near the village of Zelenopillia, Sverdlovsk district, Donetsk region, early on July 11, an advisor to the Ukrainian interior minister, Zorian Shkiriak, has said."

Shkiriak also said the death toll could rise, reports Reuters, which quotes him saying, "I think a response will not be slow in coming after this bloody terrorist act."

It seems the militants were using a mobile weapons system that can launch a barrage of rockets in quick succession from the bed of a truck. Its nickname of Grad comes from that word's Russian meaning: hail.

Update at 10 a.m. ET: About The Rockets

We initially wrote that the weapons system had been captured. But with details still emerging, that's not certain — so we've tweaked the text to reflect that.

Our original post continues:

The attack follows recent advances by Ukraine's military, which has regained control of two key cities and other territory in an aggressive campaign over the past week.

And according to Amnesty International, the recovery of those areas has uncovered stories of abductions, beatings and other abuse, as activists who back the central government in Kiev say they were punished by separatist groups.

"Abductions have taken place across eastern Ukraine, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," Amnesty International says. "Those targeted include not only police, the military and local officials, but also journalists, politicians, activists, members of electoral commissions and businesspeople. "

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