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Georgia pair sentenced to prison over Confederate flag confrontation

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A Georgia judge sentenced a man and a woman to spend years in prison on Monday for their roles in a 2015 Confederate flag display that disturbed a group of black people attending a child’s birthday party, prosecutors said.

Defendants Jose Torres, 26, and Kayla Norton, 25, were convicted earlier this month of charges that include making “terroristic threats” during the confrontation in Douglas County near Atlanta, which occurred at a time of heated national debate about a flag that many consider a symbol of racism.

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Georgia Superior Court Judge William McClain sentenced Torres to serve 13 years in prison, and Norton to serve 6 years in prison, Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner said in a phone interview. Both face probation after their release, and were banished from Douglas County.

Attorneys for Torres and Norton could not immediately be reached for comment.

The sentences were a year longer than prosecutors had asked for, said Fortner, noting the crimes went beyond disagreements over the battle flag used by the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War, which some defend as part of its heritage.

“This was a case where these people pulled out a shotgun and threatened to kill people at a party, including children,” he said.

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The incident played out during heightened debate over the symbolism of the flag, triggered by the racially-motivated shooting deaths of nine black churchgoers in South Carolina weeks earlier.

Prosecutors said witnesses attending the birthday party, featuring a bouncy castle and snow cone machine, testified that people in a convoy of trucks displaying the flag shouted racial slurs as they drove by, stopping next to the party.

Torres was accused of pointing a shotgun at the predominately black party-goers and threatening to kill them, prosecutors said in a news release. Norton loaded the shotgun and gave it to him, they said.

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The pair faced some of the most serious charges out of 15 members of the group “Respect the Flag” indicted over the incident, Fortner said. Two others facing similar charges pleaded guilty and were sentenced to lesser prison sentences.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; editing by Grant McCool)

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China

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Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.

Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.

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Trump sparks confusion at G7 before doubling down on China tariffs

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President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.

But the positives were overshadowed by a mix-up over his apparent expression of regret for the latest escalation in the US-China dispute.

"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.

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Persecuted Christians eye long-sought freedom in Sudan

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Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.

Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.

It is hidden in the courtyard of a friend's home and consists of a few iron benches, a pulpit and crosses hastily painted on pillars holding a corrugated roof.

"The previous centre got destroyed because we didn't have the right papers. They always refused... So we use the land of our neighbours," says the Lutheran reverend.

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