Downgrade -- the most feared word in Europe's financial lexicon. Most attention Friday was focused on France -- Europe's second largest economy -- as Standard & Poor's cut its rating on French sovereign debt.
Downgrade -- the most feared word in Europe's financial lexicon. Most attention Friday was focused on France, Europe's second-largest economy, as Standard & Poor's cut its rating on French sovereign debt. But the debt of several other countries also received the Mark of Cain, including Italy, Spain, Portugal -- and Austria, whose debt rating was cut by one notch from its AAA status.
Picture the glow of medieval squares illuminated by thousands of sparkling lights. Imagine gingerbread-style stalls where artisans offer traditional crafts that threaten to banish gifts of boring neckties and fruitcakes for eternity. Marvel at iPod-toting children falling under the spell of low-tech charms like wooden toys, ice rinks and vintage merry-go-rounds.
French banks were the center of the European financial storm this week, after Societe Generale and Credit Agricole were downgraded by ratings agency Moody's Investors Service. Eyes were also on the unfolding drama of Italy's surging funding costs, amid warnings the country is one which is too big to fail. At the same time, members of the Free Democrats -- the smaller party in Angela Merkel's governing coalition -- are openly flirting with a more Eurosceptic line.
Last week, when the English version of Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a rare college basketball article, it seized the opportunity to run the ultimate Jewish/Mid-Major mashup headline: "Shooting Star of David(son)". The story was about Jake Cohen, the 6-foot-10 rising sophomore at Davidson who grew up in Berwyn, Pa., but -- because of his Jewish heritage -- was able to gain dual citizenship and join Israel's U20 national team for this summer's European Championships. It mentioned how the team, whose other starters are native Israelis, was holding some of its practices in English on account of Cohen, who told SI.com he's "the opposite of fluent" in Hebrew.
• Not only will they be compared for their ability to host Olympic Games and to make tea, but Beijing and London will go head-to-head for the right to stage the IAAF world championships in Track & Field for 2015. If Beijing wins, the championships will be held at the acclaimed Birds' Nest stadium that hosted track at the 2008 Games. If London wins, the events would be held at the Olympic Stadium being built for the 2012 Olympics.
Over the weekend, Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney tied the knot -- we'll see it unfold on television on March 8 -- becoming the first "Bachelor" couple to actually make it down the aisle, news that we can only applaud since Melissa Rycroft recently got hitched as well.
One of my favorite places to be in Europe is atop the Zugspitze -- the highest point in Germany. Standing on this 9,700-foot peak, you can't help but marvel at the thought that you are above everyone else in the entire country -- No. 1 out of 82 million. From here, facing south, I feel like a maestro conducting a symphony of snow-capped peaks, as the mighty Alps stretch seemingly forever to the right and left.
Like a German child's fantasy, Nurnberg's fairy-godmother-like teenage angel stretched out her arms and said, "If you're very, very gentle, you can touch my wings." I stayed seated while little Bavarian preschoolers mobbed the stage to touch their Christkind.
Calling himself a "pilgrim among pilgrims" Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday visited the Marian sanctuary of Mariazell southwest of Vienna, fulfilling a promise he made in 2004 -- while still a cardinal -- to return to the shrine on its 850th birthday.
European Union veterinary experts have backed plans to boost surveillance of migratory birds and impose stricter bans on imports as officials desperately tried to find ways to curb the spread of deadly bird flu on the continent.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant, Tuesday night addressed the Republican National Convention where he spoke of the greatness of America. Schwarzenegger, born in Austria, is a former actor and body builder. Here is a transcript of his remarks: