Your back-to-work cheat sheet

You're back behind your desk ready (if perhaps a little reluctantly) to get back to work. Get a head start on the new year by catching up on the major news that happened while you were too busy lying on the beach/dozing on the verandah/hiding from the in-laws.

Around the world:

The death of a young woman in India after being gang-raped and beaten continued to cause outrage there and internationally. Six men who were arrested after her attack had their charges upgraded to murder. We published this opinion piece by a Delhi-based Australian woman on how the nation must change its attitude to women.

In the US, a deal to avoid the 'fiscal cliff' was finally reached after tense and drawn-out negotiations, with the House of Representatives passing legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. Read about the details of the fiscal cliff deal here and about the next crisis - the debt ceiling - here. The deal played out like an episode of The West Wing - US political tragics can read an in-depth feature about it here. (And if you're still not sure what the fiscal cliff is, read about it here.)

Also in the US, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent three days in hospital after a blood clot was found in a vein between her skull and brain. Doctors said the 65-year-old had not suffered a stroke or any neurological damage.

Meanwhile, former South African president Nelson Mandela is recuperating at home after being treated at hospital in December. Former US president George H. W. Bush also spent time in hospital in late December.

In Australia:

It's believed the oldest fossils on Earth have been found, in Western Australia. Scientists analysing rocks in the Pilbara discovered traces of a bacteria that lived 3.49 billion years ago, just a billion years after the planet was formed. The find could move scientists one step closer to understanding the first chapters of life on Earth and could also spur the search for ancient life on other planets.

On January 1, more than 80,000 Australian single parents were shifted from the parenting payment to the lower Newstart allowance, leaving some up to $110 a week worse off. Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin angered welfare groups by claiming she could live off the Newstart allowance of $246 a week . The Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt announced he would spend a week next month living on $246.

Veteran Australian batsman Michael 'Mr Cricket' Hussey announced his international retirement.

A 33-year-old woman from Brisbane was found dead in a pool in Bali, and a 21-year-old man fell to his death from a hotel balcony in Phuket.

The Queensland government released a discussion paper that opened the door to abolishing compulsory voting in the state, leading to strong criticism from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Australian home prices fell for the second year in a row, marking the worst run for the national property market in 16 years.

Bushfires that started claiming homes in Tasmania on Friday continue to burn, with more than 100 properties destroyed. As yet, no lives have been lost but insurers have declared bushfire-hit regions a catastrophe. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to visit Tasmania today. Meanwhile in New South Wales firefighters are preparing for the most dangerous bushfire conditions in years in Sydney and around the state, with the maximum temperature in inner Sydney and the western suburbs expected to his 43C tomorrow. On Saturday, the NSW town of Hay hit a record-breaking 48C.

New South Wales:

A 49-year-old Sydney mother, Leanne Maurer, died after she accidentally fell into the water from her family's boat in Rose Bay in the early hours of New Year's Eve.

The O'Farrell government is preparing for a trial of 35-metre B-triple trucks on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne.

A Victorian man who went trekking in the Blue Mountains with only 1kg of potatoes and naan bread was fined for being underprepared. 

Notable deaths:

Former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig died at the age of 66.

'Stormin Norman' Schwarzkopf, the US general who drove Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait in 1991 as commander of the lightning campaign known as Operation Desert Storm, died at 78.

Convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson was found dead inside his apartment in Sydney's Surry Hills.


Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet married Ned RocknRoll (his real name), the nephew of Sir Richard Branson.

Kayne West and Kim Kardashian announced they were expecting a baby.

Need some more first-day-back procrastination?

Take a look at our widescreen photo gallery of the fireworks over Sydney Harbour on New Year's Eve, and a gallery of NYE celebrations around the world.

See what were the most-read stories of 2012 on You can also see the most-commented stories, top sport stories, top celebrity stories, business stories, technology stories, top opinion pieces, the most-watched videos (both news and long-form), the most-viewed photo galleries and the ten best Good Weekend features of the year.

Read all about 100 films destined to hit the big screen in 2013, and see our top 50.

Prefer a book? Here's a wrap of the literary releases we can look forward to this year.

Make some food resolutions for 2013 - see restaurant reviewer Larissa Dubecki's list for inspiration. And read about the top food trends predicted to land on our plates this year.

Feeling skint after Christmas? Read our 10 financial tips for 2013.

Looking to buy a car this year (or just want to dream about it)? Here's Drive's calendar of what's due out in 2013.

See what the experts predict will be the biggest technology trends this year.

And finally, if you're still not quite ready to let go of the holidays, start by planning your next one. The most compelling destinations of 2013.

This story Your back-to-work cheat sheet first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.