Angelina Jolie in awe of Syrian refugee families living in Iraq – 'Home feels so warm and full of love'

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, returned to northern Iraq last month to meet with refugees who fled Syrian and are now living in Iraq.

She met with Ronia, a Kurdish widow whose children have special medical needs, and is among many mothers struggling to care for the families.

"If I were living with nothing, just eating bread and onions, but they were not sick, then I would be fine. But this illness has taken a huge toll on us," Ronia explained.

Ronia is raising five young girls all on her own. Two of her daughters have thalassaemia, a genetic blood disorder that stunts their growth and can be fatal.

"My husband suffered from thalassaemia… He died as there was no treatment here," Ronia said.

Ronia's family fled Syria nearly six years ago.

She takes her two daughters Roshda and Leila to hospital every other week for blood transfusions but says they can't get all of the medical treatment they need in Iraq.

"I am afraid I will lose them like I lost their dad," Ronia said.

Jolie gave the single mother credit.

"Somehow she's managed to have a home that feels so warm and full of love and her children smiling through all of this. It is such a credit to her," Jolie said.

The actress and director visited west Mosul less than one year after the city’s liberation from ISIS. Source: Associated Press

The visit marked Jolie's 61st mission - her fifth visit to Iraq - with the UN Refugee Agency since 2001.

Jolie travelled to a camp in Northern Iraq as part of her role with the UN. Source: Associated Press

'Trump derangement syndrome' - Outcry after US President's refusal to condemn alleged Russian interference in 2016 election

"Bizarre." ''Shameful." ''Disgraceful."

Trump’s failure back up claims from US intelligence agencies came as he met President Putin in Helsinki. Source: 1 NEWS

That's the swift and sweeping condemnation directed at President Donald Trump today after he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a stunning appearance in Helsinki — and that's just from the Republicans.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Lawmakers in both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked, dismayed and uneasy with Trump's suggestion that he believes Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 elections.

It was a remarkable break with U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department.

And just as alarming for some, Trump also put the two countries on the same footing when casting blame for their strained relations.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it "bizarre." Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it "shameful." And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that it was a "bad day for the US."

"This was a very good day for President Putin," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He said Trump's refusal to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election makes the U.S. "look like a pushover."

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said he's seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people in his earlier career as a CIA officer. But, he tweeted, "I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticizes President Donald Trump's performance during his side-by-side news conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 16, 2018. Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump's benefit. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticizes President Donald Trump's performance during his side-by-side news conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 16, 2018. Source: Associated Press

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in to say there's "no question" that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and "no moral equivalence" between the U.S. and Russia.

"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. Russia, he said, "remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals."

Much of the Republican rebuke came from lawmakers who have been willing to openly criticize the president, a group that remains a minority in the GOP.

Many top Republicans remained on the sidelines after the Justice Department on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for election-related hacking.

But several Republicans who don't typically buck the president raised concerns, shocked by today's performance.

Trump ally Newt Gingrich called it "the most serious mistake" of Trump's presidency — and one that "must be corrected_immediately."

Democrats pleaded with their GOP colleagues who have majority control of Congress to rein in the president and become a stronger legislative check on the executive branch.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, says never in the history of the country has an American president supported an adversary the way Trump sided with Putin.

He challenged Republicans to move beyond words and confront the president directly by increasing sanctions on Russia and requesting testimony about the summit from Trump administration officials, among other things.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump, left, during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump, left, during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland Source: Associated Press

"We need our Republican colleagues to stand up for the good of this country," he said.

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump's weakness in front of Putin wasn't just "embarrassing" but also "proves that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically."

Republicans have been hesitant to fully confront a president who remains popular among GOP voters back home.

But Trump's hold on the GOP is being put to the test by his willingness to align with Putin, a leader whom Republicans routinely describe as an enemy of the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeated his earlier assessment that the Russians are "not our friends." He said he has "complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings."

The second-ranking Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said Trump has a "delicate task" in dealing with Putin, but added that he supports the intelligence community's assessment of election meddling.

Today's firestorm erupted when Trump, standing side by side with Putin in Helsinki, refused to say he believed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, or to publicly condemn it.

Instead, he directed his ire at Democrats and U.S. officials, calling special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russia a "disaster."

Asked if there was anything he thinks Russia should take responsibility for, Trump said, "We're all to blame."

McCain called the summit a "tragic mistake."

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said she is "deeply troubled" by Trump's defense of Putin against U.S. intelligence agencies "and his suggestion of moral equivalence" between the two countries.

Even Graham, a sometime Trump ally, called the summit a "missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections."

While some GOP lawmakers were less strident in their criticism of Trump, their discomfort was clear.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he was "dismayed" by Trump's stance. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called it "unacceptable."

Off Capitol Hill, former intelligence chiefs who served under President Barack Obama were scathing in their criticism.

John Brennan, who served as CIA director, called Trump's comments "treasonous."

"Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???" Brennan tweeted.

James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence under Obama, described Trump's comments as "very, very disturbing."

"On the world stage in front of the entire globe the president of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin," Clapper told CNN.

James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump, tweeted, "This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country."

At least one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, scoffed at both parties "beating their chests" on Russia and "dumbing down" the debate, saying it's important for the U.S. to have diplomatic channels open with its adversaries if the country hopes to change behavior.

"They're making a big mistake," Paul said. He dismissed the president's critics as those who hate the president. "It's Trump derangement syndrome."

Another key Republican echoed the president's criticism of the special counsel probe.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California said he takes the charges filed by Mueller's team seriously but questions the timing coming days before the Trump-Putin meeting. "I personally would neither rule in nor rule out the validity."

But another Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, warned that while Trump may feel that he can achieve a better working relationship with Putin by being nice to him, that's unlikely to work.

"The flaw in that is that President Putin is not interested in a better relationship," Rubio said at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic. "He views politics as a battle between the strong and the weak. ... He doesn't believe in win-win scenarios. He believes in zero sum."


Kendrick Lamar set to kick off his The Damn Tour in Dunedin tonight

Critically acclaimed hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar will kick off his The Damn Tour in Dunedin tonight.

About 16,000 people from across the region will converge on Forsyth Barr Stadium to watch the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist ahead of two Auckland shows later this week.

That makes it the biggest individual show in the Australia and New Zealand tour.

The city is already buzzing ahead of the shows, with a series of activities adding to the hype.

RNZ spoke to three workers, who asked to remain anonymous, who freighted Kendrick Lamar's gear from Australia to Dunedin.

"It was a full 737 so 14-and-a-half-tonne of freight and then there's another 737 with all of his entourage," one of the workers said.

Dunedin has reaped the benefits from the international names choosing to perform here - most notably the successful Ed Sheeran concerts over the Easter holiday weekend.

Mayor Dave Cull welcomed tonight's event, saying it was important to expose the community to a range of top-flight artists.

The concert brought a welcome financial boost as well, he said.

About $45 million had already been injected into the city from previous events held at the stadium, Mr Cull said.

Kendrick Lamar was a bit like a "performance poet", he said.

And his concert further cements Dunedin's status as a City of Lit, Mr Cull said.

No, not that kind of lit - It's a UNESCO City of Literature.

Mr Cull said the position helped Dunedin attract big names.

He didn't rule out a Kendrick Lamar mural popping up after the show like the Ed Sheeran mural, but said it would happen organically if it did.

Mr Cull declined an opportunity to showcase his rap skills, but he did have a few words for concert-goers: "Just enjoy the concert and enjoy our city."

Speaking to RNZ from Australia, Live Nation Australasia chairperson Michael Coppel said Forsyth Barr Stadium's size helped to attract the show to the city.

Having an undercover venue was a real drawcard for the region, Mr Coppel said.

It would likely be a sell out tour, but there were still some additional tickets available for the Dunedin and Auckland shows, he said.

It's unknown what economic boost The Damn tour will give to the region, but it's shaping up to be anything but humble.

Kendrick Lamar starts off the New Zealand leg of his tour tonight in Dunedin. Source: Supplied