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DETROIT (AP) - A videographer for a reality television show crew filming a Detroit police raid that left a 7-year-old girl dead has pleaded no contest to obstruction of justice.

 

   The Wayne County prosecutor's office says a perjury charge against Allison Howard was dismissed Thursday. Howard will serve 1{ to 2 years' probation in Massachusetts.

 

   A crew from cable's "The First 48" was shadowing police during a 2010 search for a murder suspect.

 

   Aiyana Stanley-Jones was asleep on a sofa when she was shot during the raid on her home. Howard was accused of withholding video of the raid from investigators.

 

   Officer Joseph Weekley is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Aiyana's slaying. A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday after jurors failed to reach a verdict in Weekley's trial.

 
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VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) -- Tropical Storm Barry hit Mexico's Gulf Coast on Thursday, lashing the state of Veracruz with heavy rains but causing only minor flooding and no heavy damage in its first hours over land.

The second tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season packed sustained 40-mph (64-kph) winds. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm hit Veracruz just before 11 a.m. EDT. Civil defense workers readied emergency shelters and forecasters warned that heavy rains could trigger potentially deadly flash floods or mudslides.

Between 3 to 5 inches of rain were possible with up to 10 inches in some areas, the hurricane center said. Classes were canceled around the state but flights were operating normally out of the main airport in the city of Veracruz.

At the center, Hurricane Specialist Lixion Avila warned the rains could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially over mountains.

"There is still going to be a lot rain in the hours ahead," he told AP by telephone.

Early Thursday, blustery winds were already being reported around the Gulf Coast areas closest to the storm's center. Forecasters said tropical storm conditions were already being felt in some areas and that strong winds would continue through Thursday morning.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Punta El Lagarto to Tuxpan, in Veracruz state.

Veracruz state Civil Protection Secretary Noemi Guzman said 2,000 shelters had been readied in the state with mattresses, blankets, water and canned food. She said the shelters at schools and recreation centers could house up to 306,000 people.

The port of Veracruz was closed to small vessels because of the strong winds, Guzman added.

The storm had formed as a depression off the coast of Belize on Monday and began moving northward, dumping heavy rains on parts of that country and northern Guatemala before entering the Gulf of Mexico off Mexico's Bay of Campeche and strengthening somewhat over warm Gulf waters.

After moving inland Thursday, the storm was expected to weaken throughout the day and then begin breaking apart Friday as it crosses southern Mexico, the hurricane center said.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan Taliban are ready to free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their senior operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as a conciliatory gesture, a senior spokesman for the group said Thursday.

The offer to exchange U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Afghan detainees came as an Afghan government spokesman said President Hamid Karzai is now willing to join planned peace talks with the Taliban — provided that the Taliban flag and nameplate are removed from the militant group's newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar. Karzai also wants a formal letter from the United States supporting the Afghan government.

Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, is the only known American soldier held captive from the Afghan war. He disappeared from his base in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and is believed held in Pakistan.

In an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press from his Doha office, Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail said on Thursday that Bergdahl "is, as far as I know, in good condition."

Col. Tim Marsano with the Idaho National Guard said he has been in touch with Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, of Hailey several times this week. The family isn't giving interviews, but Marsano said Bergdahl's parents do plan to speak at an event honoring the soldier in Hailey on Saturday.

"They're aware that the possibility of a transfer or exchange is on the table and they're encouraged by it," Marsano said.

Suhail did not elaborate on Bergdahl's current whereabouts. Among the five prisoners the Taliban have consistently requested are Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former Taliban governor of Herat, and Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a former top Taliban military commander, both of whom have been held for more than a decade.

Bergdahl's parents earlier this month received a letter from their son through the International Committee of the Red Cross. They did not release details of the letter but renewed their plea for his release. The soldier's captivity has been marked by only sporadic releases of videos and information about his whereabouts.

The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban's agenda before even opening peace talks, said Suhail, who is a top Taliban figure and served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government's ouster in 2001.

"First has to be the release of detainees," Suhail said when asked about Bergdahl. "Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in Doha ahead of Saturday's conference on the Syrian civil war. He was not expected to meet with the Taliban although other U.S. officials might in coming days.

On Wednesday in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. had "never confirmed" any specific meeting schedule with Taliban representatives in Doha.

The reconciliation process with the Taliban has been a long and bumpy one that began nearly two years ago when the U.S. opened secret talks that were later scuttled by Karzai when he learned of them.

It was then that the U.S. and Taliban discussed prisoner exchanges and for a brief time it appeared that the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners would be released and sent to Doha to help further the peace process. But Karzai stepped in again and demanded they be returned to Afghanistan over Taliban objections.

Since then, the U.S. has been trying to jumpstart peace talks and the Taliban have made small gestures including an offer to share power. The Taliban have also attended several international conferences and held meetings with representatives of about 30 countries.

If the Taliban hold talks with American delegates in the next few days, they will be the first U.S.-Taliban talks in nearly 1 ½ years.

Prospective peace talks were again thrown into question Wednesday when Karzai became infuriated by the Taliban's move to cast their new office in Doha as a rival embassy.

The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." Later, the Taliban replaced the sign to read simply: "Political office of the Taliban."

At the ceremony, the Taliban welcomed dialogue with Washington but said their fighters would not stop fighting. Hours later, the group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Bagram Air Base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, that killed four American service members.

Karzai on Wednesday announced his government is out of the peace talks, apparently angered by the way Kabul had been sidelined in the U.S.-Taliban bid for rapprochement.

The Afghan president also suspended negotiations with the United States on a bilateral security agreement that would cover American troops who will remain behind after the final withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

However, Karzai spokesman Fayeq Wahidi said Thursday that the Afghan president is willing to join peace talks with the Taliban if the U.S. follows through with promises he said were made by Kerry in a phone call.

Wahidi said Kerry promised Karzai that the Taliban flag and a nameplate with their former regime's name would be removed and the U.S. would issue a formal letter supporting the Afghan government and making clear that the Taliban office would not be seen as an embassy or government-in-exile.

Once those commitments are met, Wahidi said, "We would see no problem in entering into talks with the Taliban in Qatar. "

On Thursday, the "Islamic Emirate" nameplate had been removed from the Taliban office. The flagpole inside the compound was apparently shortened and the Taliban flag — dark Quranic script on a white background — was still flying but not visible from the street. Journalists gathered at the office shot images of the flag through the gaps in the walls.

The Taliban have long refused to talk to Karzai's representatives but the opening of the office was seen as a first step toward those meetings.

Suhail said the Taliban are insistent that they want their first interlocutors to be the United States. "First we talk to the Americans about those issues concerning the Americans and us (because) for those issues implementation is only in the hands of the Americans," he said.

"We want foreign troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan," he added. "If there are troops in Afghanistan then there will be a continuation of the war."

Suhail indicated the Taliban could approve of American trainers and advisers for the Afghan troops, saying that "of course, there is cooperation between countries in other things. We need that cooperation."

He said that once the Taliban concluded talks with the United States, they would participate in all-inclusive Afghan talks.

Suhail ruled out exclusive talks with Karzai's High Peace Council, which has been a condition of the Afghan president, who previously said he wanted talks in Doha to be restricted to his representatives and the Taliban. Instead, the Taliban would talk to all Afghan groups, Suhail said.

"After we finish the phase of talking to the Americans, then we would start the internal phase ... that would include all Afghans," he said. "Having all groups involved will guarantee peace and stability."

____ Gannon reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Associated Press writers Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, and Brian Murphy in Dubai contributed to this report.

____ Kathy Gannon is AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be reached at www.twitter.com/kathygannon
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