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  • U.S. President Barack Obama responds to a question after his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 19, 2014.

    U.S. President Barack Obama responds to a question after his end of the year press conference in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 19, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 December 2014

At the White House today, President Obama expressed prospects for new relations with Cuba, concerns over the hack of Sony Pictures, and domestic issues regarding race relations and economic growth.  

U.S. President Barack Obama gave great emphasis to efforts in improving diplomatic relations with Cuba at his end of the year address to the nation Friday in Washington, D.C.

On this week's decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than half a century, Obama stated his support to lifting the blockade.

''I think there will be a healthy debate in Congress. I will certainly weigh in and I think ultimately we need to pull down the embargo which has been self-defeating,'' said Obama.

Citing the complicated nature of this year, Obama celebrated what he considers U.S. accomplishments in 2014. Opening with the economic crisis that has plagued the U.S. throughout his presidency, Obama cited growth in national employment and a growing middle class.

''Pick any metric that you want, America's resurgence is real...recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first item of business,” said Obama.

In regards to race relations, Obama spoke of the U.S.’s ''troubled racial past,'' citing Jim Crow laws and slavery. He added that recent events regarding Eric Garner and Michael Brown have created a ''healthy conversation'' about U.S. race relations and described black people as "often times starting behind in the race."

Obama said that within 90 days his presidential task force will report back with “concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together -- how do they create accountability; how do they create transparency; how do they create trust; and how can we at the federal level work with the state and local communities to make sure that some of those best practices get institutionalized.”

Regarding international relations, Obama announced that the FBI confirmed North Korea's alleged involvement in the Sony Pictures hack that resulted in the pulling of its Christmas release of the film “The Interview,” which shows the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

''Sony is a corporation, it suffered significant damage, threats against employees, I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced, having said all that, I think they made a mistake,'' said Obama.

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