Week Ahead: Republicans will sling mud, European leaders talk up the euro

BOSTON — This is the week when there will be plenty of heated words coming from South Carolina.

Republicans will get down and dirty to see who is going to run against Barack Obama.

The South Carolina primary, which will be held on Saturday January 29, is known for being one of the nastiest. It is a conservative state and the Republican candidates try to outdo themselves to prove they are more conservative than the rest of the pack. In this case Newt Gingrich is throwing some knives at Mitt Romney, especially that when he directed Bain Capital, Romney closed down firms and fired people. And Rick Santorum is hammering Romney over his apparent change of heart over abortion.

Neither of these attacks are likely to stop Romney on his cruise to the nomination. But they will make Romney a damaged and weaker candidate against Obama in November. Gingrich, in particular, appears bitter and out for blood, for the attack ads that Romney supporters ran against him in the Iowa primary.

The hard-fighting South Carolina primary should winnow out the field of candidates narrow. Jon Huntsman is expected to drop out Monday and pundits predict another GOP hopeful may resign from the race this week, even before the primary is held. 

Finland's presidential election should be a much cooler, calmer competition. The Finns go to the polls in the first round of their presidential election on Sunday, Jan. 22.

Rescue efforts at the sunken Italian cruise ship, and charges against the captain

A lot of attention will be focused on the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground and capsized. Fifteen people are still missing and diving crews said it could take a long time to find them. And the likelihood of finding them alive dwindles.

Captain Francesco Schettino is being investigated for allegedly abandoning his ship before everyone had been evacuated. That is a crime in Italy. Also there are suspicions that he caused the ship to run aground by showing off and steering the ship too close to the notoriously rocky coast.

European leaders meet in Rome, London and Madrid to resolve eurozone crisis

In Europe there will be lots of meetings between leaders trying to shore up their shaky currencies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet with the new Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid on Monday, Jan. 16.

And British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to meet with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in London. And then on Friday, Jan. 20 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Rome for more talks Monti. All these talks are in preparation for the next European Union summit on the eurozone debt crisis on January 30.

Australian Open starts the year's tennis competitions 

The tennis year gets off to a start with the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the favorites. But will Roger Federer make a comeback? That would make things very exciting. This is the Gland Slam tournament that sets the pace for the rest of the year.

Africa's big soccer tournament kicks off

And for soccer fans, the Africa Cup of Nations tournament kicks off on Saturday Jan. 22. It is the continent’s biggest soccer tournament and it is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Film frenzy

And the film world is in full swing, too. The Golden Globes, held Sunday night, started the frenzy leading up to the Oscars.

“The Artist” was Sunday night’s big winner, grabbing best motion picture, comedy and musical. While “The Descendants” took home two awards including best drama and best acting for George Clooney.

The annual Producers Guild Awards honoring the makers of films and television programs takes place in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 21.

In Park City, Utah, Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival will open on Thursday, Jan. 19. It's the premier showcase for independent feature films and documentaries.

That all gives us plenty to watch this week.

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