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Chatter: What we're hearing

Need to know: Tensions escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula, as South Korea said it will stop nearly all trade with North Korea, deny North Korean merchant ships use of South Korean sea lanes and ask the United Nations Security Council to punish the North for deliberately sinking a South Korean warship two months ago. In Washington, the Obama administration said the South Korean measures were “entirely appropriate” and instructed American military commanders to coordinate closely with their South Korean counterparts to “insure readiness and deter aggression.”

Want to know: How are Brazilians preparing for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa? By obssessively collecting stickers of the 32 national teams in a charming throwback to an earlier time.

Dull but important: Australia ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat after investigators concluded Israel was responsible for forging four Australian passports that were used in the slaying of a Hamas operative in Dubai. Australia's reaction echoes that of the United Kingdom, which in March expelled a diplomat in retaliation for the use of 12 fake British passports in the plot to kill Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Dubai authorities blame Israel's Mossad intelligence service for the January slaying.

Just because: In response to France's ban on smoking in public places, a man has started an unusual protest by smoking two packs a day — and tracking how the habit affects his health.

And in Britain, Prince Andrew "categorically denied" knowing anything about his ex-wife's alleged offer to sell access to him after a British tabloid newspaper released a video in which she appears to do so. The Duchess of York said she regrets the incident and said her finances are stressed.

Wacky: Dark chocolate can make your skin glow. Eating 20 g (0.755 oz) of chocolate packed with antioxidants, or flavanols, each day may help prevent wrinkles and make skin more radiant by boosting elasticity and improving hydration, according to a recent study by chocolate maker Barry Callebaut.  Dark chocolate has already been linked with certain health benefits, such as helping to lower blood pressure and reducing the risk of strokes thanks to its high content of antioxidants.

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/africa/100524/chatter-what-were-hearing