5 Stories You Missed While You Were Out Partying

From bird flu to deadly toilets: the news didn't take a holiday, even if you did.

Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

If you're anything like us, you took a much-needed break from your RSS feeds and cable news shows over the long holiday weekend. But that doesn't mean 2012 didn't start off with a slew of newsworthy events. Here's a look at five stories to help you jumpstart the conversation around the water cooler.

 Photo: Reuters Pictures. 

1. Bird Flu is Back

OK, so it's never really gone away, but the deadly H5N1 avian flu claimed its latest victim when a 39-year old Chinese bus driver died Saturday in the southern city of Shenzhen. Chinese health authorities are saying this particular strain of H5N1 spread directly from poultry to the victim—meaning we haven't yet reached the nightmare scenario of person-to-person infection—but scientists are still closely monitoring the situation for any signs of mutation.

 Photo: Reuters Picture

2. Israel and the Palestinians Are (Finally) Talking Again

Will 2012 see a breakthrough in the quest for Middle East peace? Not likely. Still, anyone holding out hope for some kind of movement will be happy to see the two sides are sitting down in Jordan for the first time in more than a year. Talks broke down in September 2010 over Israel's refusal to agree to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank. 

 Photo: Reuters Pictures

3. Thousands of Dead Fish Washed Up in Norway

We're pretty sure 20 tons of dead herring on a beach in Norway isn't a sign of the apocalypse. But hey: maybe the Mayans were right about 2012. The more likely explanation for the smelly situation in Kvennes, Norway: predatory fish or a recent storm. 

 Photo: Getty Images

4. Leaving the Seat Up is Bad For Your Health

One more reason to shut the toilet lid: flushing can spray diarrhea-causing bacteria. Researchers in the U.K. found C. Difficile bacteria—which can cause a potentially deadly inflammation of the colon—as much as 10 inches above the toilet seat when they flushed lidless commodes. Researchers are concerned about the findings, since many public facilities use lidless toilets. 

 Photo: Reuters Pictures

5. Two More States Recognize Gay Couples

At the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, Hawaii and Delaware became the fourth and fifth states to recognize civil unions for gay couples, joining Rhode Island, Illinois and New Jersey. Six other states, and the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriage. Just two years ago, Hawaii's then-governor, Republican Linda Lingle, vetoed similar legislation. 

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