Rock `n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino dies

Fats Domino, who brought rolling New Orleans boogie-woogie piano to early rock ‘n’ roll in chart-topping hits such as Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame, has died at the age of 89.

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Domino, who for a while was mistakenly thought to have been killed when Hurricane Katrina devastated his New Orleans neighbourhood in 2005, died at home on Tuesday of natural causes, the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office said on Wednesday.

As one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, Domino sold 65 million records, more than anyone in that period except Elvis Presley, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He had dozens of songs on the pop and rhythm-and-blues charts, including Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That a Shame, Blue Monday, I’m Walkin’, Whole Lotta Loving, Hello, Josephine, Walking to New Orleans, I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Some Day and Let the Four Winds Blow.

“For lack of a better way of putting it, he’s a living, walking legend among us in New Orleans,” singer Irma Thomas told the New York Times in 2007. “Between him and Louis Armstrong, they were the first big names to put us on the musical map.”

Antoine Dominique Domino was born on February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, one of nine children. A brother-in-law taught him piano, leading to a style that mixed the classic New Orleans sound with blues, country and Cajun music.

He was performing in nightclubs while still a teenager and soon teamed with trumpet player Dave Bartholomew, who would become his co-writer and producer and help refine his piano style.

His nickname was attributed to his short, squatty stature, as well as a tribute to two other pianists – Fats Waller and New Orleans native Fats Pichon.

Like contemporaries Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Domino was a black performer whose music crossed over to white audiences and helped shape early rock.

His first hit was an R&B song, the autobiographical The Fat Man, recorded in 1949 and considered among the first songs in the rock ‘n’ roll genre.

Also like Little Richard, one of his biggest hits, Ain’t That a Shame, was later recorded by Pat Boone, a white singer, whose version received more radio airplay. A live version of the song by the rock band Cheap Trick was a hit in 1978.

Domino would be a huge influence on rockers who came after him – John Lennon told a New York radio station that Ain’t That a Shame was the first song he learned to play – but his prominence began to wane after the British invasion and other forms of rock took root in the 1960s.

Harry Connick Jr, from a later generation of New Orleans musicians, said on Twitter, “You helped pave the way for new orleans piano players… see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky.”

Guitarist Vernon Reid of the band Living Color mourned Domino’s death by tweeting, “Rock & Roll lost part of it’s soul.”

In his later years, Domino was reluctant to perform and rarely left his beloved hometown, but he did go to Indianola, Mississippi, in 2015 to play Amazing Grace at BB King’s funeral.

Domino was a longtime resident of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, the section of the city hit hardest by Katrina’s floodwaters, and had resisted early pleas to evacuate as the hurricane approached. For a time he was believed to have died in the flooding and the words “R.I.P. Fats You will be missed” were spray-painted on his house, which was flooded up to the roof.

It was later learned that Domino and his family had been rescued by boat and taken to the refugee centre set up at the Superdome in the city before going to Baton Rouge. They lost most of their possessions in the flood but managed to save Domino’s couch, which was custom-made from the rear end of a vintage pink Cadillac.

After Katrina, he moved to a New Orleans suburb to live with his daughter.

The Recording Industry of America late gave Domino reproductions to replace the 20 gold record awards he lost. His Grammy Awards also were replaced and President George W. Bush visited Domino to give him a new National Medal of the Arts.

Domino titled his 2006 album Alive and Kickin’ and proceeds went to help rebuild New Orleans and preserve its musical heritage.

Domino was among the inaugural class of artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Trump congratulates Xi on consolidating his grip on power

President Donald Trump congratulated Xi Jinping on Wednesday after the Chinese leader solidified his grip on power at a landmark Communist Party Congress.

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“Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation. Also discussed NoKo & trade, two very important subjects,” Mr Trump tweeted after the call.

The phone call came as Mr Xi was formally handed a second term in power and his doctrine was written into the party constitution – putting him on par with the nation’s founder Mao Zedong.

The party meeting also saw the Chinese leader fuel speculation about how long he will remain in the post by not anointing a possible successor to take over in five years’ time.

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported that Xi expressed a desire to work with Mr Trump to “jointly blueprint future development of China-US ties.”

Mr Trump is expected to meet the Chinese leader during a state visit to China early next month.

That is part of a broader Asia trip likely to be dominated by concerns about North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear programs.

Successive White Houses have viewed Mr Xi’s meteoric rise to become China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping with cautious optimism.

They hope it will lead to more streamlined decision making and see benefits in having an interlocutor who can afford to take some risks domestically.

A senior aide to Mr Trump said “the president has a very good working relationship with Xi Jinping. He wants to continue building on what the president terms a constructive and results-oriented relationship”.

“The 19th Party Congress provides the opportunity for us to get some things done in the relationship to put us on a good footing deep into the future,” the aide said.

‘Has Lonely Planet ever been to Canberra?’: Australians mock the capital after it’s named world’s third-best city

Australians have taken to social media to mock travel guide Lonely Planet’s decision to name Canberra the third-best city in the world to visit.

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The announcement has prompted a barrage of responses on Twitter and most have ridiculed the decision. 

i will fight and and all historical buildings. pic南京夜生活,/zCeyD3mpy5

— Colley (@JamColley) October 24, 2017Has Lonely Planet ever been to Canberra?

— Lucy Stone (@ljstone09) October 24, 2017

The nation’s capital has been praised for its museums, art galleries, vineyards and parks, as well as its cafe-lined, leafy boulevards, microbreweries and leading restaurants.

Lonely Planet also lauded the city’s unconventional hotels and challenging exhibitions.

While Canberra is finally being recognised for more than politicians and roundabouts, many are still skepitcal about whether it is a match for the other cities that made the list.

i’ve only been to a few of these, but it’s hard to articulate just how much canberra doesn’t belong there pic南京夜生活,/wXpl6zOZIu

— MaGhouly Skullcan (@macaulaybalkan) October 24, 2017I was going to move to Canberra and looks like, according to @lonelyplanet, that would have been a wise decision. 

I’m still not convinced.

— Hannah Laxton-Koonce (@h_laxton) October 25, 2017Feeling sorry for the poor tourists who read @lonelyplanet and end up in Canberra pic南京夜生活,/h5GuglnkiE— Bonnie Malkin (@bonniemalkin) October 25, 2017

But Lonely Planet is standing by decision.

“The whole town has transformed in the last 18 months,” Lonely Planet’s Chris Zeiher told AAP.

Meanwhile others are standing by the city. 

I liked Canberra before it was cool.#cbr #lonelyplanet

— Shalailah Medhora (@shalailah) October 24, 2017I am actually a big fan of Canberra so this makes me happy 苏州美睫培训,南京SPA,/TenPTpj6y9 #BestInTravel pic南京夜生活,/MJucAG0KAT

— Brighette Ryan (@brighetteryan) October 24, 2017Hey Australia, why so salty? maybe take @lonelyplanet advice, @visitcanberra for a weekend! You might be surprised… @canberra #CBR— David Lovelle (@DLove113) October 25, 2017

While some are not impressed by how Australians are responding to the news. 

Predictably… rather than celebrate Canberra’s naming on @lonelyplanet list.. Aussies take to social media to bag it. Fair go? No.

— Craig Norenbergs (@CraigNorenbergs) October 24, 2017

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Man recreates iconic scene from ‘Up’ by strapping 100 balloons to lawn chair

UK man Tom Morgan, who runs thrill-seeking group The Adventurists, has floated 25km across Johannesburg on a lawn chair strapped to 100 helium balloons.

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The 38-year-old Bristol daredevil floated for two hours and reached heights of up to 8000 feet in an adventure that took weeks of planning.

Mr Morgan, who plans to start the first-ever helium balloon race, had to test the durability of his “aircraft” before the competition could be feasible.

The Adventurists recreate scene from Pixar movie ‘Up’.The Adventurists

“It’s going to be a three-day long distance floating adventure under party balloons on a chair of some description, probably the world’s silliest dare race,” Mr Morgan said in a video posted online.

After plenty of failed tests in Botswana – and just enough helium for one more attempt – The Adventurists relocated to South Africa to start their journey.

“The problem was finding a good weather window and it was difficult to protect the balloons as they kept bursting,” Mr Morgan told the BBC.

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After two days of filling up balloons, Mr Morgan’s perilous journey across the South African landscape was underway.

As the balloons reached 8000 feet the ride began to accelerate very quickly.

“I had to keep my cool and start gradually cutting the balloons,” Mr Morgan told the BBC.

Luckily he made it down to the ground safely.

The adventure was compared to a scene from the Pixar film, ‘Up’, where 78-year-old widower Carl Fredricksen ties balloons to his house for a journey to Paradise Falls.

Concerns would-be mum still lack iodine

There are concerns many Australian women still suffer iodine deficiency before pregnancy, especially those who don’t eat much bread.

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A study of 94 women aged 16 to 45 from outpatient clinics across Sydney found 40 per cent were deficient in iodine, an element essential for healthy brain development in foetuses.

Lead researcher Professor Jenny Gunton, from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research at Westmead Hospital, says iodine deficiency the single most preventable cause of mental development delays.

In 2009, it became mandatory in Australia to add iodine and folate to bread to reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and reduce iodine deficiency.

A federal government report released last year found the measure had resulted in a significant 14.4 per cent overall decrease in the rate of neural tube defects.

But Dr Gunton believes it’s not enough.

“Our study shows that adding iodine to bread has not been enough to meet the additional needs of women who are planning pregnancy,” Dr Gunton said.

“Women in certain cultural groups who tend not to eat much bread are at even higher risk of iodine deficiency.”

According to the study findings, the median level of iodine from the sample group was 117 micrograms per litre, well below the 250ug/L recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Dr Gunton, an endocrinologist, says women planning a pregnancy must be more aware of their iodine levels.

She also says women should be taking pregnancy multivitamins before they start trying to conceive, because a baby’s brain starts developing “before you even know you’re pregnant.”

The research is published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.