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Briefs (right)

Europeans Reach Ever Higher and Risk Outrage Of Investors

By Geraldine Fabrikant

Along with hip-hop and Hollywood movies, Europeans are eagerly importing another American phenomenon: soaring pay packages for chief executives.

For decades, Europeans were far more restrained than Americans when it came to rewarding the boss. Now, executives overseas are less inhibited about asking for American-style compensation. And often they are getting their wish.

But while huge paydays have become a staple of American corporate life, in Europe this appears to be less acceptable to investors, and in some countries, resistance is building.

Signs are abundant that the trans-Atlantic pay gap is shrinking. Last year, Jan Bennink, the chief executive of Royal Numico, a Dutch baby-food producer, was granted $13.4 million. Lord Browne of BP was awarded $18.5 million, and Antoine Zacharias, former chairman of the French construction company Vinci, was given $22 million in compensation and a one-time severance payment.

While those figures may seem low when compared with awards in recent years to some American executives, European bosses are increasingly winning pay packages that were unimaginable just five years ago.

Miami-Dade School Board
Bans Cuba Book

By Terry Aguayo


A children’s book about Cuba will be removed from Miami-Dade County school libraries because a parent objected to its contents, saying it contains deceptive information and paints an idealistic picture of life in Cuba.

The Miami-Dade School Board voted 6-3 Wednesday to ban the book, “Vamos a Cuba,” and its English version, “A Visit to Cuba,” from its libraries, against the recommendation of two review committees and the school system’s superintendent. The book is part of a 24-book series for children in kindergarten through second grade that teaches about travel around the world and different cultures. The other 23 books will also be removed, though the board received no complaints about them.

The cover of the book shows smiling Cuban children in the uniform of the Pioneers, the Communist youth group to which every Cuban student must belong. The 32-page book describes July 26, a Cuban national holiday that celebrates a historic day in Fidel Castro’s revolution, as a carnival where people dance and sing. Critics also found misleading a page reading, “People in Cuba eat, work and go to school like you do.”

A Changing Mass For U.S. Catholics

By Laurie Goodstein and Cindy Chang

Roman Catholic bishops in the United States voted Thursday to change the wording of many of the prayers and blessings that Catholics have recited at daily Mass for more than 35 years, yielding to Vatican pressure for an English translation that is closer to the original Latin.

The bishops, meeting in Los Angeles, voted 173-29 to accept many of the changes to the Mass, ending a 10-year struggle that many English-speaking Catholics had dubbed “the liturgy wars.”

Passage required a two-thirds vote.

Some changes are minor, but in other cases Catholics will have to learn longer and more awkward versions of familiar prayers. For example, instead of saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,” in the prayer before Communion, they will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”

The reason for the change is a Vatican directive issued in 2001 under Pope John Paul II that demanded closer adherence to the Latin text. But some bishops in the English-speaking world were indignant at what they saw as a Vatican move to curtail the autonomy of each nation’s bishops to translate liturgical texts according to local tastes and needs.

The new translation is likely to please those traditionalists who longed for an English version more faithful to the Latin in use before the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. But it may upset Catholics who have committed the current prayer book to heart and to memory and who took comfort in its more conversational cadences.

‘Mona Lisa’ Look-Alike
Intrigues Art Sleuths

By Katie Zezima


Forget Paris. The curious are now flocking here for a Mona Lisa mystery.

A painting that bears a striking resemblance to the “Mona Lisa” is on display at the Portland Museum of Art, attracting residents, amateur art sleuths and curious tourists.

May was the busiest month the museum has recorded. Staff members are not sure whether to credit the painting, which went on display a day before “The Da Vinci Code” opened in movie theaters, or the record rainfall.

Pigment analyses of the painting, “La Gioconda,” show that it was created before 1510 and that its brush strokes were most likely by a left-handed painter like Leonardo. “Mona Lisa,” which Leonardo is said to have worked on from 1503 to 1507, is also known as “La Gioconda.”

The work here shows a woman who looks like the “Mona Lisa” subject without her smile, cloaked in brown and standing on a balcony with a body of water behind her.

It is impossible to know whether Leonardo or someone else painted it, but its age and resemblance to the masterwork have fueled intrigue and sent the museum searching for clues to whether it is a knockoff or a rough “Mona Lisa” draft. Many “Mona Lisa” copies exist, but they do not date from Leonardo’s time.