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LA in lockdown ahead of Jackson memorial

Los Angeles has shut down ahead of Michael Jackson's star-studded memorial service today, as fans prepare to bid a poignant farewell.

Los Angeles has gone into lockdown ahead of a star-studded memorial service today, as hundreds of millions of fans prepared to bid a poignant farewell to Michael Jackson. Nearly two weeks after the death of the "King of Pop," America is expected to grind to a standstill as the tortured music superstar is finally laid to rest. Mr Jackson's family and close friends are to attend a private funeral service for the iconic singer at 8am at the picturesque Forest Lawn mortuary nestled in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles.

Late yesterday, members of Mr Jackson's family were seen entering the cemetery, reportedly for a viewing. Today, attention will turn to the lavish public memorial at the 20,000-capacity Staples Center sports arena. A staggering 1.6 million people applied to win free tickets for the event, which were allocated via an online lottery over the weekend. Precise details of the service have been kept under wraps but organisers confirmed yesterday that Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and the Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson were among the stars due to participate.

An additional 1,400 police officers will be on duty to provide security, while city blocks surrounding the venue have been sealed off. Organisers of the memorial, which gets underway at 10am, have appealed to ticketless fans to watch the event on television, fearing chaos if hundreds of thousands take to the streets to mourn. A live feed of the service is being made available free to television networks, while the event will also be streamed via social networking websites Facebook and MySpace, officials said.

"There is just so much global reach for this star," commented Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg. The site was preparing for more users worldwide to experience the event than even President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, he said. * AFP

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