Continued from page 2

The gaps were evident in the differing accounts Obama and the Vatican gave of the meeting, with Obama stressing the two leaders’ common ground on fighting inequality and poverty while Vatican officials emphasized the importance to the church of “rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection.” That point by church officials referred to a major disagreement over a provision of Obama’s health care law.

The meeting inside the grand headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church marked a symbolic high point of Obama’s three-country visit to Europe. For a president whose approval ratings have slipped since winning re-election, it was also an opportunity to link himself to the hugely popular pope and his focus on fighting poverty.

“Those of us as politicians have the task of trying to come up with policies to address issues,” Obama said following the meeting. “But His Holiness has the capacity to open people’s eyes and make sure they’re seeing that this is an issue.”

The president said the plight of the poor and marginalized was a central topic in their talks, along with Middle East peace, conflicts in Syria and the treatment of Christians around the world. Social issues, he said, were not discussed in detail.

___

Report from Christie’s lawyer clears governor in payback plot, but other investigations loom

NEW YORK (AP) - Lawyers hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Thursday that the governor was not involved in the plot to create a traffic jam last fall, a conclusion that left the lead lawyer defending the integrity of his report, which came ahead of the results of separate and ongoing federal and legislative investigations.

The taxpayer-funded report released by former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro relied on interviews with Christie and other officials in his administration - who were not under oath - and 250,000 documents, many of them emails and text messages. But the key figures in the political payback plot did not cooperate, leading Democrats to question the credibility of the report and its thoroughness.

The investigation concluded Christie had no knowledge beforehand of lane closings Sept. 9-12 near the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York that caused four days of massive gridlock in the community of Fort Lee.

The closings became a major scandal for the governor in January when he had to backtrack and acknowledge the involvement of a top aide and an associate in orchestrating the closings. He has repeatedly denied knowing about the plot or being involved in the closings.

“Governor Christie’s account of these events rings true. It’s corroborated by many witnesses, and he has conducted himself at every turn as someone who has nothing to hide,” the report found.

___

Government autism estimate increases to 1 in 68 children, a 30 percent move in 2 years

NEW YORK (AP) - The government’s estimate of autism has moved up again to 1 in 68 U.S. children, a 30 percent increase in two years.

But health officials say the new number may not mean autism is more common. Much of the increase is believed to be from a cultural and medical shift, with doctors diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems.

Story Continues →