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Obama Hails Strength of US Economy

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Dec. 19, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Dec. 19, 2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama defended his policies during the past year during an annual year-end news conference, saying the U.S. economy is improving and America is leading around the world.

Obama began the news conference by saying there is no doubt that the United States is making strides where it counts. He vowed that during his remaining two years in office he will make every possible effort to continue economic growth, in order to make life better for American families.

Obama is heading to the island state of Hawaii later today for a winter vacation with first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters.

The president fielded questions on a range of issues in recent headlines, including the dramatic shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba, the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures — which federal investigators say they have traced back to North Korea — and Obama's controversial executive action on immigration.

Other issues include the fight against Islamic State militants, the Senate's scathing report on CIA interrogation methods and the end of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan at the close of this year.

Reporters also are asking ask about the president's tense relationship with Republicans in Congress. Republicans will control both the House of Representatives and Senate when the new Congress convenes in January.

This is Obama's first White House news conference since the day after his Democratic party's defeat in the November congressional elections.

Some information in this report was provided by AP.

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