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France censured for not taking care of its hamsters

Zut alors! The EU's highest court has an announcement:

In 2008, France did not take adequate measures to protect the European Hamster in Alsace.

That's the verdict released by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg today in a lawsuit brought by the European Commission in 2009 about Western Europe's last wild hamster, the European Hamster, known also as the Great Hamster of Alsace. And the court is threatening fines to back the verdict up:

If France does not adjust its agricultural and urbanization policies sufficiently to protect [the European Hamster], the court said, the government will be subject to fines of as much as $24.6 million.

Not to cast doubt on the wisdom of the court, but it didn't hurt the Great Hamsters that they're all so darn cute.  Research published in Human Ecology suggests that cute endangered animals -- excuse me, "charismatic megafauna" -- get more attention than, well, "uncharismatic" ones. That extra support has already paid dividends for the Hawaiian Monk Seal, and lawyers fighting for the American pika will no doubt also be counting on their client's stunning good looks.

The purple burrowing frog, on the other hand?  Don't bet on it.

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

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Americans still unenthused about Arab Spring

President Obama may see the recent uprisings in the Middle East as a "moment of oppotunity," but most Americans are not particularly enthusiastic about it, according to a new foreign policy poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: 

 

The good news for the president is that despite all the sturm and drang over his "1967 borders" remarks, a plurality of Americans -- 50 percent -- say he's striking the right balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, essentially unchanged since last year. 

The survey found a nearly even division on the question of whether the Untied States should "mind its own business in the world". This is little changed since last year, indicating that Americans are still more isolationist than they've been for about half a century. Perhaps indicating the increasing influence of the Tea Party movement, substantially more Republicans (46 percent) now see reducing America's military commitments as a major priority. 

In the not surprising but striking category is the stark partisan division on attitudes toward the United Nations:

There's not much concensus within the parties on questions of use of force, trade, terrorism, or diplomacy -- and in any case, the division between the parties on those questions is not always well defined when compared to economic or social issues. This survey shows conservative Republicans are more pro-Israel than liberal Democrats, but there's not much daylight between the moderate wings of both parties.

On the U.N. however, the positions are absolutely clear.  Could it be that the role of international organizations is the most polarizing partisan issue in American foreign policy?