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Chatter: Israel votes

The polls are open in Israel's parliamentary elections, France and Germany celebrate 50 years of friendship, and fake boyfriends are on the rise in China.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

Israel decides on its new government today, and it's set to look a lot like the old one. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely expected to keep his job after today's parliamentary elections, though with a smaller majority.

The only real uncertainty is who Netanyahu will woo to join his right-wing Likud party and its Yisrael Beitenu partner in a coalition. Will it be Yesh Atid? Hatnuah? Surely not Labor? If all that's, er, Hebrew to you, check out our handy guide to Israel's election here.

France and Germany, best friends forever. Or more accurately 50 years, for that's exactly how long it's been since the two neighbors signed the Élysée Treaty. The profession of friendship ended decades of emnity and sealed the partnership that, as many years later, is the backbone of the European Union.

French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are marking the anniversary in Berlin, where the two countries' parliaments will also hold a special joint session. Félicitations and/or Glückwunsch.

WANT TO KNOW

Smuggle drugs in Indonesia and you're dead. A 56-year-old British woman has been sentenced to death for for bringing $2.5 million worth of cocaine in her suitcase onto the island of Bali. Arrested in May 2012 as she entered the country from Thailand, Lindsay Sandiford maintains that she was forced to carry the drugs by a gang that was threatening to hurt her children.

She plans to appeal, but if that doesn't work, the British government has hinted it will apply pressure to have her spared.

Feeling all inaugurated out? Amid all the flag-waving, dresses and – swoon – Beyonce, there were some important talking points at President Barack Obama's swearing-in yesterday, not to mention a few historic firsts.

GlobalPost's Jean MacKenzie analyzes Obama's inauguration address 2.0 and finds the president is turning from foreign affairs to matters domestic. And of course, we haven't forgotten those dresses.

Imagine a looming global catastrophe caused by rampant pollution. Now imagine an international treaty approved unanimously in the United Nations that stops the problem dead in its tracks.

Unimaginable as it seems now, that really did happen – when countries came together in the 1980s to tackle the threat from the shrinking ozone layer, the major environmental threat of the day and now, thankfully, on the mend. Two decades on, we look at what that campaign can teach us for the fight against climate change.

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Need a partner for the Chinese New Year? There's a website for that. Chinese singles dreading those awkward questions from nagging parents can avail themselves of Taobao.com, a site that offers over 260 fake boyfriends for women to take to family events, meals, and on shopping trips. They'll even kiss you, though that costs extra and perhaps isn't advisable over mom's chow mein.

The service is especially in demand over the New Year's celebrations, which kick off on Feb. 10. Book now!

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-israel-votes

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