WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will deliver his annual state of the union speech to Congress on February 12, just days before the Treasury could run out of funds to pay government bills. Obama yesterday accepted the invitation from the top Republican lawmaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress, the White House said. The speech from the Democratic president will come in the middle of another set of difficult budget negotiations between Congress and the administration.
First royal portrait of Kate unveiled
LONDON: The first official portrait of Prince William’s wife Catherine was unveiled yesterday at a London gallery where it was hailed by its subject as “amazing” but slammed by some critics. The National Portrait Gallery commissioned award-winning artist Paul Emsley to produce the painting of the Duchess of Cambridge, who is expecting her first child this summer, after she became patron of the gallery early last year. The 31-year-old royal, who attended a private viewing of the painting with her husband yesterday ahead of its unveiling to the public, told the artist: “It’s just amazing, I thought it was brilliant.” Prince William added: “It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
CAR govt signs peace deal with rebels
LIBREVILLE: Central African Republic’s government and rebels agreed to the formation of a national unity government under a ceasefire deal yesterday to end an insurgency that swept to within striking distance of the capital. The agreement, signed in Gabon’s coastal capital after three days of negotiations under the intermediation of neighbouring central African states, also envisages the dissolution of the country’s National Assembly. “This is a good deal to bring peace,” said Seleka spokesman Eric Massi by telephone. Massi that said among the Seleka coalition’s demands were the release of political prisoners and a revision of the constitution stripping the president of certain powers, including the right to fire his prime minister.
US flu outbreak claims at least 18 lives
WASHINGTON: The United States was in the grip of a deadly influenza outbreak that has hit harder and earlier than in previous years, and has claimed the lives of at least 18 children. “It looks like the worst year we’ve had since 2003-2004,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said this year’s influenza strain, which has sickened thousands across the country, is particularly severe. The epidemic, which broke out in early December, has caused some 2,200 hospitalisations across the United States. Hard hit has been Boston, where officials have declared a public health emergency. Officials said there have so far been about 700 confirmed cases of the flu. Agencies