Friday, August 21, 2009

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller Criticizes Release of Libyan Convicted in Lockerie Bombing

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III responded to Scotland’s release on Thursday of the Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am flight 103, saying he was “deeply disappointed” and figured the man had served less than 14 days in jail per victim.

“We are deeply disappointed over the decision to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi from prison,” Mueller said in a prepared statement. “Mr. Megrahi’s guilt was firmly established by the court. His conviction resulted in a life sentence for his part in the loss of 270 innocent lives, including 189 Americans.”

“He never admitted to his role in this act of terrorism, nor did he or the government of Libya disclose the names or roles of others who were responsible,” Mueller said. “In a case of mass murder over Lockerbie, Mr. Megrahi served less than 14 days per victim. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those victims today, for the ongoing pain and loss caused by this horrific attack.”

Scottish authorities released the terminally ill Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, on compassionate grounds, according to media reports. He was convicted in 2001 in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over the town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

Two New York Criminal Defense Attorneys Convicted of Witness Tampering

Criminal defense attorney and television commentator Robert Simels, 62, has been convicted in Brooklyn of plotting to kill witnesses. Also convicted was attorney Arienne Irving, 31, who was convicted of witness tampering. The jury only acquitted Simels on one count dealing with false statements after deliberating for seven days.

The virtual sweep by the prosecution was a bit surprising given the long deliberations and 45 notes with questions sent to the judge during deliberations.

Simels is a former prosecutor who often appeared on Fox and CNN as a legal expert. The charges stem from his representation of Shaheed (Roger) Khan, a major cocaine trafficker from Guyana. He was convicted of tampering with eight witnesses and both Simels and Khan were convicted of possessing illegal eavesdropping equipment.

Much of the trial focused on Simels taped statements boasting to a gang member. He is heard saying such things as planning to “neutralize,” “eliminate” and “destroy” a government witness against Khan. Simels insisted that he was just talking “street” to a lowlife (who proved to be a government informant): “Guyana is a Third World country. They sometimes speak in a very unappealing fashion, so I spoke down in a manner he would appreciate.”

On his website, Simels tell prospective clients: “I have been providing personalized legal services to individual and corporate clients in criminal and civil matters for more than 30 years. My exceptional success as a litigator has earned me a renowned reputation in the legal community.” Prosecutors insist that it became a bit too personalized in this case and crossed over into criminal acts.

Simels gave no ground as a witness but became so combative that Judge John Gleeson ordered the jury out of the courtroom to warn him about his demeanor on the stand, telling Simels “your career is at stake, your liberty is at stake . . . but I’m not going to allow this to continue, I’m going to step on you in front of the jury, and it’s not going to help your case.” For an account of the cross-examination, click here.

To his credit, Judge Gleeson turned down demands by the prosecutors to revoke the bail of Simels pending sentencing and instead put him on house arrest (here). He had, however, some strong language for the former prosecutor. He said that Simels went over to the “dark side” and “spent many years living on the wrong side of the law.” He added that “[t]he tragedy of this case was Robert Simels did so many things well.”

This does not bode well for sentencing. The case itself is interesting in light of the focus on the interpretation of such expressions as “neutralizing” a witness. After all, it is doubtful that Judge Gleeson actually intended to stomp on Simels in front of the jury. Perhaps he was just talking legal street.

State and Local Government Still Adding Jobs Despite Budget Shortfalls

I have to admit, I was taken aback by this story - my assumption was that unlike federal government, state and local government, under the weight of massive budget deficits in much of the country, were cutting jobs. Or at least holding flat... but amazingly despite an edict to have balanced budgets - and with burgeoning pension issues brewing,... have found the ability to increase employment. The parallel universes of public and private employment continues to live... this will be a long tail implosion but eventually this will come to a head. Perhaps when the country has more public employees than private - or pensions begin to send city after city, and state after state into effective bankruptcy. [Aug 11, 2009: LA Times - Amid Cost Cutting, LA City Pensions Continue to Soar] The U.S. is already 1/3rd public (if you include education and healthcare which essentially borrow on current and future taxpayers dime, to fund today's employment) workers. The 2/3rd private? Your world is not so nice - but as a generous folk you are doing a heck of a job supporting the other 1/3rd. [Aug 14, 2009: No "New Normal" Say Some Economists; Prosperity Without Jobs?] The new paradigm economy - transferring money from private to public to subsidize the smaller portion (but growing fast) of the workforce.

So let me apologize on my prediction that state and local government would in fact see job losses for the first time in many a year. Very few businesses, who have to break even by law, would add jobs when they are losing money. Government appears to be one of them... but then again many states are using "stimulus" money to make up shortfalls so I suppose through the backdoor, the federal government is really adding these jobs. Again, let me reiterate - it is imperative you raise your child to be a public worker... it seems the private taxpayer simply has unending allowance to fund the public sector. Remember, at this point not 1 single net new job in the private sector has been created since 1999...

Does it ever feel like the country is a crack addicted junkie driving his car at 120 mph, swerving left and right but for now staying on the road? Maybe it's just me.

Via New York Times

While the private sector has shed 6.9 million jobs since the beginning of the recession, state and local governments have expanded their payrolls and added 110,000 jobs, according to a report issued Thursday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
Total employment in state and local government rose in 30 states, fell in 16 and was unchanged in four during the last year, the report found.
The report, based on an analysis of federal jobs data, found that state and local governments steadily added jobs for eight months after the recession began in December 2007, with their employment peaking last August.

State and local governments have since lost 55,000 jobs, but from the beginning of the recession through last month they gained a net of 110,000 jobs, the report found, in part because of the federal stimulus program.
55,000 jobs lost in the worst downturn since the great depression... effectively 1000 per state. That's about equal to the amount of jobs lost in just 1 or 2 of our largest private employers.

Well I don't feel so bad about being wrong about this one; even the experts are shocked.

Government jobs are always more stable than private sector jobs during downturns, but their ability to weather the current deep recession startled Donald J. Boyd, the senior fellow at the institute who wrote the report.
The report ... pointed to the slow pace of decision-making in many states, and the power yielded by politically influential unions. But it also noted that the demand for many government services rises in a recession, and said that billions of dollars of federal stimulus money sent to states helped them avert layoffs. States have been able to avoid shedding jobs with help from the more than $36 billion for fiscal relief they have received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the report said.

$36 billion here, $3 billion for clunkers there, $300M for appliances here, $75 billion for homes there. Just put in the IOU - I'll pay for all that later. The sad thing - and it's already forgotten is just inside of AIG alone we put $200 Billion (p.s. the stock is flying! thank you taxpayer) $300B into Citigroup ... (stock is flying! thank you taxpayer) - so you see how the US economy is now working. It's effectively just a transfer scheme. And just like in a Ponzi eventually it ends because obligations (requests for withdrawel) overwhelm the ability to find new suckers to buy in as new "investors". Only in this Ponzi we have the Federal Reserve to create new money to keep it going for ... if we're "lucky" - forever!

Again let me reiterate I don't want people to lose jobs. And if we had any hope of ever paying off our deficit I can understand moving money from 1 shell to another - just as we have done with cars, homes, washing machines, et al. But since we're already broke... ah nevermind. Broken record.

The expansion, coming as many states and localities are raising taxes, troubled Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian research group in Washington. “That is disturbing,” Mr. DeHaven said. “Basically what you have is your producers in society losing their jobs and looking for work, and their tax burden isn’t necessarily going down — and as a matter of fact they are likely to face tax increases going forward — and government growing.”
An example

The disparity between the public and private sector job market is striking in places like Boise, Idaho. Since the recession began, the area’s unemployment rate has more than doubled, to over 10.1 percent in June, as big employers, especially in the technology sector, shed workers. The Boise area lost 20,000 jobs in the year ending in June, the Idaho Labor Department said, and saw real gains only in government, which had an increase of 1,400 jobs, mostly in the public schools.
Can't say much more - we've been on this issue since blog inception - I wrote a lengthy piece in April 2008 [Apr 2, 2008: The Underemployment Rate is Rising] It simply seems to me, that unless something is an obviously painful shock to the system, many of the "slowly but steady" sea changes that happen to the economy like an erosion are not recognized by people. I guess we have to wait for the future shocks on this one too. Until then... kick the can. From the April 2008 piece...

Last point, we have 2 huge beaurocracies - federal government and healthcare. To keep the government from going even more insolvent we should in theory be cutting jobs from these 2 white elephants. Healthcare costs spiral out of control and we hire more people - I believe healthcare is now 16% of GDP. But how do you cut costs without cutting jobs? Thats the other dark secret - most of our recent gains in jobs are either government or healthcare related. So how do you fix the long term problems in either? Chicken or egg? They are sapping our national wealth away by their huge excesses/costs BUT they also provide the main job growth as well. As with everything my expectation is the "kick the can down the road" theory will continue - keep growing these massive beaurocracies (create more jobs and costs now) and let another generation pay for it.

Existing home sales surge

The National Association of Realtors reported a sharp increase in sales of existing homes in July, the annualized rate climbing above the five million mark for the first time in ten months in what was the largest monthly increase in almost ten years.

Existing home sales rose 7.2 percent, from an annual rate of 4.89 million units in June to 5.24 million units in July, paced by a 12.5 percent surge in sales of condominiums. From year-ago levels, homes sales are now up 5.0 percent, the first year-over-year increase in almost four years.

Inventory remains quite high and may be set to move higher as more sellers enter the market after several months of generally positive housing market news. An early indication of this was provided in the July data where, despite the sharply higher sales volume, the months of supply metric was unchanged at 9.4 months, a figure that is still more than 50 percent higher than normal.

Look for on-the-fence sellers to add to the inventory of homes for sale in the months ahead along with more foreclosed properties currently owned by banks who, to date, have been in no particular hurry to sell when sales were flagging.

Distressed sales are said to have accounted for 31 percent of all sales, down from more than half of all sales earlier in the year, and the realtors' trade group continues to point to discounting on these properties as a major reason for home prices continuing to fall.

From June to July, the median home price fell 2.0 percent to $178,400, down 15.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Cash transactions reportedly constitute 16 percent of all sales, far above the historical average of about 10 percent.

Investors continue to snap up properties as prices have plunged, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun commenting on the surge in activity in what were once the bubbliest areas:

Because price-to-income ratios have fallen below historical trends, there are more all-cash offers. In some recovering markets like San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Orlando, the demand for foreclosed and lower priced homes has spiked, and a lack of inventory is becoming a common complaint.

It shouldn't be surprising that sales prices for distressed properties are dismissed by the NAR as being artificial, but that the group is more than happy to point to the sales totals as a sign of an improving housing market.

The "terminally ill" Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, walks off the plane to a hero's welcome.

Just how "terminally ill" is that guy? He should be on a stretcher and have tubes attached if there was any reason for Scotland to show mercy on on the man who blew up 270 human beings. He doesn't look anywhere near close enough to dying. What kind of death panel decided he was dying?

Meanwhile, back in America — and consider that most of Megrahi's victims were American — Barack Obama is displeased:

"We have been in contact with the Scottish government indicating that we objected to it," President Barack Obama said of Thursday's release.

"We thought it was a mistake. We are now in contact with the Libyan government, and want to make sure that if in fact this transfer has taken place, he is not welcomed back in some way but instead should be under house arrest...."
Indicating that we objected... Let me indicate that I find Barack Obama infuriatingly bland. Has he ever showed passion (this purveyor of empathy) – has he ever showed staunch resolve in the war on terror?

Janet Daley writes:

The credibility of Barack Obama’s influence on the world is going to take at least as hard a knock. In the end, all the protests and all the diplomatic pressure from the White House counted for nothing. Scotland’s determination to return Megrahi to the bosom of his family and his homeland was not going to be blocked.

The rehabilitation of America’s standing in the world was going to be one of the great gains, if you remember, of the Obama election victory.... The President and his Secretary of State could do nothing - for all their administration’s supposed global prestige - to prevent what they considered to be an outrage. On yet another score, Mr Obama could not deliver the goods.

Amy Winehouse: Back to Her Old Ways?

While it looked as if things were turning around for the better, recent reports claim that Amy Winehouse may be falling back into her old ways.

After recently returning home to London following a lengthy stay in St Lucia, Wino’s dad, Mitch Winehouse, tells that his troubled daughter’s ex-hubby Blake Fielder-Civil has caused her to return to drugs.

“Seven months of good work is all unraveling because of Blake,” Mitch said. “What is he doing to her? Why can’t he leave her alone?”

Continuing to tell that Amy’s mom is handling it hard, a source reveals, “Janis is in poor health and the thought of Amy getting back together with Blake has made her very ill. She lost her own mother Esther only last month, so the stress is taking its toll. She can hardly walk. She’s begging Amy not to see Blake again after all the progress she has made this year.”

The Charlie Rose Show: A discussion about Obama's Leadership & Health Care

A discussion about Obama's Leadership & Health Care with Ross Douthat, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Arianna Huffington

on Thursday, August 20, 2009

Video: Chad Ochocinco Johnson Kicks an Extra Point Field Goal Against Patriots

Wow, this was incredible. With Shayne Graham held out as a precaution because of a groin injury, the team went to Chad Ochocinco Johnson for their kicking duties. Ochocinco nailed an extra point following the Chris Henry touchdown and booted it straight through like a pro. He also kicked off for the team after the TD. In case you think it’s a joke, here’s the video to prove you otherwise — he is very much a legit kicker:

Well the good thing for the Bengals to know is that they have someone on their roster fully capable of kicking in case Graham comes up limp during a game. I am truly impressed.

Iran parliament to reject Ahmadinejad ministers -MPs

TEHRAN, – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a tough battle to win parliament’s approval for his new cabinet after some deputies signalled they were likely to reject several nominees.

“Those nominated by the president for government posts must have sufficient expertise and experience, otherwise a great deal of the country’s energy would be wasted,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying yesterday.

Vice speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar, a pragmatic conservative who has been critical of the hardline president in the past, suggested up to five members of Ahmadinejad’s 21-strong cabinet risked being voted down by parliament.

He did not give names. Ahmadinejad hit back when he presented his list of proposed ministers in a televised address, asking how one person could speak for the whole parliament. “This is far from constructive cooperation … those who try to present the government’s relations with parliament as damaged will certainly not succeed,” he said. “We really tried to choose experts.”

The outcome will be a test of Ahmadinejad’s grip on power after his disputed re-election in June led to the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and exposed establishment divisions. At least 26 people were killed in street protests.

The nominees include Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi as oil minister, a key position as crude sales account for most state revenue. Mirkazemi is seen as an Ahmadinejad ally but has little known oil industry experience.

Ahmadinejad said Mirkazemi was a skilled manager. “His presence at the Oil Ministry will further promote the status of our oil industry as a strategic commodity of our nation.”

In 2005, the president failed to get his first three choices for oil minister appointed because of parliament’s opposition. Mirkazemi and the proposed intelligence and interior ministers have a background with the elite Revolutionary Guards, as does Ahmadinejad.

The force, seen as fiercely loyal to the Islamic Republic’s values, appears to have grown in political and economic influence since he came to power four years ago.

London-based analyst Gala Riani, of IHS Global Insight, said Ahmadinejad had put forward a cabinet that “largely consists of loyalists with a security background” and that his legitimacy would be damaged if some of them were rejected by parliament.

Blackwater loads Hellfire for killing al Qaeda

NY Times:

From a secret division at its North Carolina headquarters, the company formerly known as Blackwater has assumed a role in Washington’s most important counterterrorism program: the use of remotely piloted drones to kill Al Qaeda’s leaders, according to government officials and current and former employees.

The division’s operations are carried out at hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. They also provide security at the covert bases, the officials said.

The role of the company in the Predator program highlights the degree to which the C.I.A. now depends on outside contractors to perform some of the agency’s most important assignments. And it illustrates the resilience of Blackwater, now known as Xe (pronounced Zee) Services, though most people in and outside the company still refer to it as Blackwater. It has grown through government work, even as it attracted criticism and allegations of brutality in Iraq.


For its intelligence work, the company’s sprawling headquarters in North Carolina has a special division, known as Blackwater Select. The company’s first major arrangement with the C.I.A. was signed in 2002, with a contract to provide security for the agency’s new station in Kabul, Afghanistan. Blackwater employees assigned to the Predator bases receive training at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to learn how to load Hellfire missiles and laser-guided smart bombs on the drones, according to current and former employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of upsetting the company.

The C.I.A. has for several years operated Predator drones out of a remote base in Shamsi, Pakistan, but has secretly added a second site at an air base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, several current and former government and company officials said. The existence of the Predator base in Jalalabad has not previously been reported.


I am sure the Taliban and al Qaeda appreciate the intelligence briefing and heads up from the NY Times. What I am not sure of is why the Times wanted to disclose this information to the public and the enemy.

My speculation is that they want to help liberal Democrats stop a program to kill the enemy and make it easier for the enemy to find our forces operating in Pakistan.

They also are embarrassing our Pakistani allies and making it harder for them to deny cooperation. The editorial judgment is strange at best, but the Times continues to be the best source of enemy intelligence. Al Qaeda does not need its own CIA, it just needs access to the Times web site.

I don't see anything wrong with the arrangement. I wish them continued success in operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Lutherans start last debate on gay clergy proposal

Opponents made a last stand Friday against a proposal to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy in the nation's largest Lutheran denomination.

Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ministers only if they remain celibate.

At 4.7 million members and about 10,000 congregations in the United States, the ELCA would be one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations yet to take a more gay-friendly stance on clergy.

"We are today part of a church denomination that is changing, and it will make possible sexual moral standards that are contrary to the Bible — which is what brings Jesus closer to us," said convention delegate Al Quie, a former Republican governor of Minnesota.

The debate over the so-called "ministry recommendations" got under way first thing Friday, and Quie proposed an alternative proposal: "Practicing homosexual persons are excluded from rostered leadership in this church."

The proposal, which would have left the church's policy more or less unchanged, failed. In addition, conservatives lost an important vote Wednesday night when the convention's 1,045 delegates approved by a two-thirds supermajority a "social statement on human sexuality" that said the ELCA could accommodate diverging views on homosexuality.

The Rev. Katrina Foster, a pastor in the Metropolitan New York Synod, pointed out that the church has ordained woman and divorced people in violation of a literal interpretation of scripture.

"We can learn not to define ourselves by negation," Foster said. "By not only saying what we are against, which always seems to be the same — against gay people. We should be against poverty. I wish we were as zealous about that."

Some critics of the proposal have predicted its passage could cause individual congregations to split off from the ELCA, as has been the case with other Christian denominations, including the Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Tim Housholder of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, Minn., who spoke in favor of Quie's alternative, described himself as a rostered ELCA pastor "at least for a few more hours."

"This assembly is not the ELCA," Housholder said. "This is an agenda-driven group."

Swine flu fight needs more help, county told

The county’s top health official warned Thursday that more volunteers and money are needed to vaccinate Allen County residents against the H1N1 virus.

Mindy Waldron, administrator for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, gave the County Council an update on plans for a mass inoculation this fall.

Because officials don’t know how virulent this strain of flu could be, they plan to eventually provide vaccinations for anyone who wants them.

But not enough of the vaccine will be available for all 350,000 Allen County residents at first, Waldron said, and officials expect to prioritize who will receive the shots.

The federal government will provide the vaccine for free to local health departments along with some syringes and alcohol swabs. Waldron said federal grant money will reimburse the county for the cost of other supplies such as gloves, bandages and refrigeration space to store the vaccine plus paying for staffing and clinic locations.

Allen County expects to receive at least $378,000, of which the state said it will provide a small portion of upfront. That first infusion of cash could come in September, she said.

Waldron expects the total cost to vaccinate the county against H1N1, also known as swine flu, will be more, depending on how long the clinics are provided.

Waldron said she will ask the council for an additional appropriation, either from unused cash in the health department’s budget or from other county funds, to supplement the federal grant.

There are many unknowns related to the vaccination procedures, Waldron said, including which groups will be handled first. Priority groups could include children, health care workers and child-care providers.

Officials also don’t know when the vaccines will be available or whether two shots several weeks apart or just one shot will be required.

After plans are finalized, the health department will tell the public, she said.

The department plans to contract with local hospitals, clinics and private physicians to help vaccinate residents, and those entities must follow the same priority schedule.

They will not charge for the vaccine, she said, but will charge a fee to administer it.

In addition to the contracted groups, the department will need medical volunteers.

Waldron estimated that to give one shot to every resident in the county would take 61 days with a staff of 60 working around the clock.

"That’s not feasible for us alone," Waldron said.

As of Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Health has reported 317 confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

Four deaths have been reported statewide from the virus.

Aye carumba! The Simpsons get a makeover for African show

No, there's nothing wrong with your eyes. These are the Simpsons - just a little less yellow than usual.
For the first time in more than two decades, Homer and his family have been given a make-over.

At the behest of advertisers, the family have been turned into Angolans ahead of the shows first airing in the African continent.

Don't have an elephant, man: The Simpson family have been turned into Angolans for the launch of the show in the African continent

Angolan advertising agency Executive Center have taken an original animated promotional shot of Bart, Homer, Maggie Lisa and Marge sitting together on a couch and altered it to show them as Africans.

Their yellow skin has been replaced with a much darker brown skin while Marge's blue hair has been switched for a jet black afro hairdo. Lisa's hair is now braided and the entire family are shown wearing Angolan-inspired clothing and flip flops.

The family cat has completely disappeared from the new shot. Also missing are a lamp, table and telephone which have been replaced by huge stereo speakers.

And the picture on the wall of a yacht on the ocean is now a picture of Serengeti elephant scene.

Underneath the family are the words: 'The Simpsons now in Angola.'

However, it is believed the family will keep their traditional yellow look when the series airs on digital service DStv next month.

Now a massive franchise, The Simpsons is broadcast in more than 90 countries and has been translated into more than 45 languages since it started in 1989. 441 episodes have currently been made.

Producers have also announced that British band Coldplay will feature in a forthcoming episode of the show, when the 20th anniversary series begins in September.

They will join a long list of celebrities who have appeared as guests on the programme over the years.

They include the Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sir Elton John, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, Aerosmith and U2.

Africa: Continent's Population Reaches One Billion

One billion people now live in Africa, says a new report. The continent's population is growing by about 24 million a year, and will double to nearly two billion by 2050, the report adds.

These statistics have been released by the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, in a report published jointly with USAID, the United States government aid agency.

The report, the "2009 World Population Data Sheet," shows that Africa is the continent with the world's highest birth rate and the highest projected population growth rate to 2050.

Although population growth has slowed in North African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, on average women in sub-Saharan Africa have more children than women elsewhere. While globally the average woman has 2,6 children, in sub-Saharan Africa she has 5.3 children (which is down from 6.7 children in around 1950). The world's highest fertility rate is in Niger, where women have on average 7.4 children.

A group of women with their children in Senegal.
Worldwide, 62 percent of married women of childbearing age use contraception, but in Africa the figure is 28 percent.

The report also reveals that sub-Saharan Africa has the world's most youthful population, "and is projected to stay that way for decades." In 1950, nine percent of the world's youths were African. In 2050, the continent is expected to have 349 million youths, or 29 percent of the world's total.

The report says of the world's young people: "This very large group will arrive at working age with a right to expect gainful employment, adequate health care, and the ability to raise a family with an appropriate living standard if they so choose... But will the economic conditions of their country be able to meet their rising expectations? This will be one of the major social questions of the next few decades."

Other points from the report:

HIV prevalence appears to be on the decline in Africa, although the rate of infection is still much higher than elsewhere;

Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world – 26 percent of people aged between 15 and 49 are HIV positive.

While worldwide, less than 60 percent of youth go to secondary school, in sub-Saharan Africa the figure is less than 30 percent.

Although Africa has a seventh of the world's people, it has a quarter of the world's refugees.

Beanie Sigel Arrested for Drug Possession

There comes a certain time in a person’s age where certain behaviors should be deemed as unacceptable. Beanie Sigel is one that comes to mind as he was recently arrested Sunday after a traffic stop resulted in a search where police found weed in the rapper’s vehicle.

Michael Jackson tribute concert site crashes due to demand

Fans rush to buy tickets for the King of Pop's tribute concert, despite the fact that the lineup remains a mystery

Michael Jackson rehearses at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on 23 June. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/AP

Fans have flooded the website of an upcoming Michael Jackson tribute concert, crashing the site's servers before the lineup has even been announced. Though the site is now working, more than a million fans allegedly tried to log in yesterday, as tickets became available.

Organised by Michael's older brother Jermaine, the concert is called simply The Tribute. It takes place at the Schönbrunn palace in Vienna, Austria on 26 September. Fans are already snapping up the 80,000-plus tickets – which sell for up to £430 – though not a single performer has been confirmed.

"The concept of The Tribute is that some of the world's leading artists will perform Michael Jackson's greatest hits live onstage in an imperial setting, befitting the King of Pop," reads a statement on the concert website. Then again, "there is no right or legal claim whatsoever that certain artists will perform at The Tribute," the website states. "All ticket sales are final. Any refund or discount due to the performance or non-performance of a specific artist is hereby explicitly excluded."

Earlier this month, Madonna and Whitney Houston were floated as possible performers, though their reps denied any deals. Barack Obama was also alleged to appear as a celebrity speaker – until the White House repudiated the idea. So far, the only star whose involvement can be counted on is Jermaine himself. The website promises a full lineup "at the end of August".

Tickets for the concert cost about as much as Michael Jackson's doomed O2 arena gigs, from about £50 for a limited view, standing-room spot on the palace grounds, to more than £400 for a VIP "gold seat". Organisers do say that the 85,000 tickets will be rolled out gradually – raising the possibility of cheaper passes at a later time. They also guarantee that a "substantial portion" of the concert's proceeds will go to charities such as Feed the Children, the Larry King Cardiac Foundation and the Earth Care Foundation.

The Schönbrunn palace site was chosen, Jermaine Jackson said, because his late brother "loved castles".

British fans seeking a different tribute to the King of Pop may wish to buy tickets to Gladys Knight's upcoming UK tour. The soul singer will be joined by Tito Jackson, who promised this week to pay tribute to his younger brother, singing tunes by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five.