MORNING RUSH: news, sport, weather, traffic, online buzz

8.25am That's it from us today! Enjoy your weekend. We'll be back on Monday with all the weekend's news.

8.23am Don't forget Tumbleweed are performing at Waves tomorrow night. Tickets are still available via Moshtix.

8.21am SPORT: Ranko Despotovic will make his first start in a sky blue jersey away to the A-League champions in place of marquee Alessandro Del Piero when Sydney FC play Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night. The in-form Serbian striker has convinced coach Frank Farina that he is fit enough to claim a starting position just three weeks after arriving in Australia following a near year-long spell without a club. (SMH)

8.18am Looking for a different kind of Christmas tree decoration? How about Miley riding a wreck ball?

8.16am WORLD NEWS: Pope Francis has set up a committee to fight child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and give pastoral care to victims, following a recommendation from a council of cardinals he has asked to advise him.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/vatican-committee-to-fight-child-abuse-20131206-2yufr.html#ixzz2mda9GKI0

8.14am The popular handmade craft and design market in Thirroul is back! And this time, it’s the festive season. Come on down for an afternoon browsing through stalls of amazing locally produced emerging and established makers, crafters, artists and designers’ suitcase stalls; sample some homemade cake and festive sweets, tea and chai, and soak up the funky vibes of this unique and quirky market. Gold coin entry. Thirroul Community Centre on Sunday.

8.12am His Boy Elroy has a picture of some pretty delicious looking nachos on their Facebook page. Head there tonight for some yummy food & drinks.

8.10am Family and colleagues of Detective Inspector Bryson Anderson will gather to commemorate the first anniversary of his death by playing a game of cricket. Det Insp Anderson was fatally stabbed while trying to calm a neighbourhood dispute over a bird cage in Oakville, in Sydney’s northwest, on December 6 last year. To mark the first anniversary of the 45-year-old’s death, his family, friends and former colleagues will play a game of cricket at Richmond RAAF Base on Friday. A mother and son have been charged with his murder. (AAP)

8.07am A ballroom dance teacher accused of sexually assaulting a teenage pupil in a Canberra hotel room said he was feeling “risqué” when he invited the boy into his bed. But the Sydney-based instructor, then 43, maintained to police his teenage student had been a willing participant in the sexual acts during a trip to the ACT in June last year. Read more here.

8.05am Props to my friend Kylie who found this picture of two baby tortoises wearing raspberries. Yep. You're welcome.

8.03am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Aww baby's first art lesson with an internationally renowned artist. Kim Kardashian has shared a sweet pic of baby North with artist Jeff Koons.

8.01am One of our reporters has just shared the news that today is Come to Work in the Nude day. Um, okay. Well that's awkward. Merc workmates, please come dressed. Clothes are good!

7.59am Here's what's making news in your Mercury this morning:

*Christmas has come a few weeks early for the 12 projects that will receive money from the NSW government's $100 million Restart Illawarra infrastructure fund. For a full list & more details, visit here.

*A baby boy was not expected to live after being violently shaken by his father, a Wollongong court heard on Thursday. Read more here.

*The second most senior executive within the NSW State Emergency Service passed on a text message to his boss which said a female colleague would ‘‘get what she deserves’’, a corruption inquiry heard on Thursday.

*Proactive comments from two Wollongong Liberal councillors have drawn fire from the union that represents council workers, with a warning it is prepared to fight to protect jobs. Read more here.

7.57am TGIF! If you've just tuned in, let's have a look at what's in the sky, what's on the road and what's on the railway tracks this morning.

WEATHER Oh man was it chilly out there this morning! We're headed for a sunny day with a top of 21 degrees but the wind chill factor made things a little cool earlier this morning. We're set for a mostly sunny weekend too with tops of 23 on Saturday and 26 on Sunday. Right now in Albion Park & Bellambi, it's 14 degrees.

TRAFFIC There is an oil spill at Spring Hill (between Five Islands Rd & Mt Keira Rd).Northbound traffic is affected, be careful. Don't forget those changed traffic conditions at Appin (Appin Rd b/w Rixon Rd & Brian Rd), slow down there. There is a good run to Sydney & down south.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

7.55am In just two years, Figtree musician Alex Tobin has gone from beginner songwriter to stamping his mark on the world music stage. Tobin was crowned winner of the international category at the Australian Songwriters Association’s 2013 Songwriters Contest in Sydney this week, his song Last Call beating out contestants from all over the world.

7.53am SPORT: A dazed and confused Chris Cairns says he is living a recurring nightmare after match-fixing allegations once again engulfed the New Zealand cricketing great yesterday. Read more here.

7.51am Have you entered your house in our Christmas lights comp yet? Not long to go now - entries have to be in by Dec 15. Enter via the Merc's iphone app, for your chance to win great prizes!

7.49am BREAKING CELEB GOSS ALERT:  Justin Bieber’s foul mouth landed him in hot water with customs officers when the misbehaving pop star visited Brisbane. It’s been revealed the 19-year-old was briefly detained at Brisbane airport last month, when customs officers went to check members of his posse for drugs. He was warned for using inappropriate language after allegedly swearing at a female officer, and also refused to take off his hat and sunnies, the website TMZ is reporting. (AAP)

7.47am BREAKING: With hoods pulled over their heads and one casually walking with his hands in his pockets, these are the two men police believe could hold the answer to the shooting death of a teenager in Bexley. Check out their images here.

7.46am Looking for a night at the theatre? Gypsy closes at Roo Theatre this weekend, while Something Afoot ends its season at the Arcadians tomorrow. Don't miss out - I've heard both shows are fab.

7.44am The Illawarra has its very own BAFTA winner! Playing kids’ games has paid off for a former Lake Illawarra High student, with a prestigious BAFTA award for his London company.

7.41am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Marijuana has been found inside a Wendy's burger in the US. An employee claims she "misplaced it." Read more here.

7.39am The Crown St Mall markets are on today - head in their early to get the pick of the best flowers & veggies or head in there at lunchtime for delicious Asian fare.

7.37am Don't forget the annual Bikers Toy Run is on this weekend.

7.35am STRANGE BUT TRUE:Authorities say two people were making meth when their central New York apartment caught fire, and not cooking a batch of chicken wings as they told police.

7.33am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Keri Russell has split from her husband Shane Deary after nearly seven years of marriage.

7.31am Looking for a cook book this Christmas? Check out this list from the SMH of good cook books this year.

7.29am The Kiama Arts Trail is on this weekend. The trail winds through studios, galleries and spaces through the South Coast. More than 20 stops are confirmed from Oak Flats south to Berry,to showcase the artistic talent that inhabits the Illawarra including a wide variety of techniques, such as drawings, paintings and prints, you are sure to enjoy. A map of the trail will be available from Kiama Tourism.

7.27am LOCAL NEWS: A Cringila man charged with having under-age sex with a 15-year-old-girl has been released on strict conditional bail after telling a magistrate he’d had no contact with the child since January.

7.25am WORLD NEWS: An American teacher has been shot dead in Benghazi, 15 months after a deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya's second city. (SMH)

7.22am It's day two of the second Ashes test in Adelaide today. Can the Aussies continue their solid run-making effort?

7.14am LOCAL SPORT: Surviving a couple of weeks of pre-season training may not sound like much, but for Kyle Stanley he thought he would never even be at this point. Read more here.

7.12am Lettuce has topped a list of the top eight vegetable BBQ hits. Out of the 16 vegetables that were tracked in the detailed Project Harvest survey, which covered everything from preferred consumption occasions to knowledge of different vegetable varieties, it was found that consumers typically consumed/used the following vegetables at BBQs: lettuce (29%), cucumbers (22%), capsicums (20%), sweet corn (17%), zucchini (11%), cabbage (11%), celery (10%) and baby spinach (10%).

7.10am CabaRed, the Red Lounge Cabaret, is on at the Phoenix Theatre tonight. Come and enjoy performances by the region's premier drag performers, burlesque girls and cabaret artists. Performance will be from 8pm.

7.08am Looking for a good drop? Check out Good Food's top red & white wines of 2013.

7.06am Essential Employment and Training is celebrating International Day of People with a Disability outside the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre today from 12pm - 3pm. Join them for live music, great entertainment and a free sausage sizzle.

7.04am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Oooo Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez drama - these two broke up AGES ago, what could possibly be going on!?

7.02am WORLD NEWS: An attack on a hospital at Yemen's Defence Ministry in the capital Sana'a left at least 52 people dead, the country's top security body said. (SMH)

7am Handel’s choral masterpiece, beloved of audiences since its first performance in 1742, returns to the Wollongong Town Hall tomorrow, with Meryl Jackson-Kew directing the 70 singers of the Choral Society, a 26 piece sinfonia and an outstanding group of soloists.

6.58am A group of men stand outside Erskineville train station on a Friday night. They appear to be talking before one of them, dressed in a white singlet, grabs a tool from his belt or bag and attacks another man wearing a fluoro yellow tradesman's vest. This scene is portrayed in two videos shot on a mobile phone from inside a car and sent to Fairfax Media. Check it out here.

6.56am Here's what's making news in your Mercury this morning:

*Christmas has come a few weeks early for the 12 projects that will receive money from the NSW government's $100 million Restart Illawarra infrastructure fund. For a full list & more details, visit here.

*A baby boy was not expected to live after being violently shaken by his father, a Wollongong court heard on Thursday. Read more here.

*The second most senior executive within the NSW State Emergency Service passed on a text message to his boss which said a female colleague would ‘‘get what she deserves’’, a corruption inquiry heard on Thursday.

*Proactive comments from two Wollongong Liberal councillors have drawn fire from the union that represents council workers, with a warning it is prepared to fight to protect jobs. Read more here.

6.54am TGIF! If you've just tuned in, let's have a look at what's in the sky, what's on the road and what's on the railway tracks this morning.

WEATHER Oh man is it chilly out there this morning! We're headed for a sunny day with a top of 21 degrees but the wind chill factor is making things a little cool right now. If you're heading out for a walk, take a jumper! We're set for a mostly sunny weekend too with tops of 23 on Saturday and 26 on Sunday. Right now in Albion Park & Bellambi, it's 13 degrees (but with wind chill, it's more like 9!)

TRAFFIC There is a truck breakdown at Mt Ousley (Mount Ousley Rd near New Mt Pleasant Rd overpass). One northbound lane is closed, be careful. Don't forget those changed traffic conditions at Appin (Appin Rd b/w Rixon Rd & Brian Rd), slow down there.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

6.52am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Could Ashton Kutcher have popped the question to Mila Kunis?

6.50am The Illawarra-based Public Housing Union will next take its fight to Wollongong’s southern suburbs in its attempt to highlight issues surrounding public housing in the region. On Wednesday evening, protesters gathered at the Wollongong Golf Club to picket a planned auction of two northern suburbs public housing properties, one at Bulli and one at Woonona, but the auctions were cancelled. Read more here.

6.48am WORLD NEWS: Hurricane-force winds cut transport and power in northern Britain and blasted towards mainland Europe, as meteorologists warned Storm Xaver could be the worst to hit the continent in years. British authorities said the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would shut on Thursday night and warned of "the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England". Prime Minister David Cameron called two emergency meetings to discuss strategy. (SMH)

6.46am Don't miss this week's edition of Hoopla with basketball writer Tim Keeble. He's chatting with proud new dad Rhys Martin. Awww. Check it out here.

6.44am Swell Coffee are cooking up slow-cooked pork sliders - yum! Just $7.50 for a pair.

6.42am A surfer has suffered lacerations to his hand after a suspected shark attack at Port Macquarie last night. Police said that about 6.15pm, a 26-year-old surfer at Shelley Beach felt something hit his right hand.When he looked down, he realised he had cuts to his hand and blood on his leg. The surfer went to Port Macquarie Hospital, where doctors told him the wounds were consistent with a shark bite. (SMH)

6.40am LOCAL NEWS: A Leumeah man has been jailed for a minimum 12 months over a violent assault outside the Illawarra Steelers Club that left a Vietnamese man with extensive fractures to his skull. Check out all the details from court reporter Shannon Tonkin.

6.38am BREAKING: Car manufacturer Holden may quit Australia by 2016. Read more here.

6.36am LOCAL SPORT:  The Australian Beach Soccer Cup is on at North Beach this weekend. China put the finishing touches on their preparation with a friendly match against a Wollongong side yesterday. Come along and check it out - they'll be dancers, cheerleaders, a DJ, Brazilian drummers, kids' competitions and a charity match.

6.34am WORLD NEWS: Nigella Lawson has told a court she would rather be "honest and ashamed" than "bullied with lies" after revealing details of her past drug use. The television chef said she was not proud after admitting she has taken cocaine and cannabis but denied her admission was damage limitation. (SMH)

6.32am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Poor ol' Amanda Bynes. The former teen star got out of rehab and was doing "great" ... and then she was in the poo again.

6.30am BREAKING: The search for 14 asylum seekers hiding on Christmas Island is set to resume this morning. (Channel Nine)

6.28am It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - only 19 days left! Does your mother force you to wear an ugly Christmas jumper, ala Bridget Jones Diary? There, there - check out this gallery of truly ugly sweaters & you'll feel a little better.

http://www.essentialkids.com.au/photogallery/special/ugliest-christmas-sweaters-20131203-2ymvl.html#utm_source=FD&utm_medium=lifeandstylepuff&utm_campaign=sweaters

6.26am Don't forget the Hawks are taking on the Sydney Kings at the WIN Entertainment Centre tomorrow night. Come along and support the boys! The Mercury will be giving out player cards at the game. Come and see the gang at the Mercury table to collect this match's card.

6.24am Heading into the new year, I've already got several weddings in my diary - how about you? But do you know the "rules" of weddings to avoid a horrible faux pas? Don't wear white, don't live tweet the wedding & don't steal the centrepieces. For more no-nos, read here.

6.22am Love this animal pic this morning - sitting here giggling at my desk like a naughty school girl. Hehehehe.

6.20am LOCAL SPORT: Her trainer described her as "no champion", but the unfancied My Bella Rose has a bank balance to suggest otherwise after speeding to victory in the rich Dapto Puppy Classic (520m) final.

6.18am British music press heavyweight NME have released their top 50 songs and albums of the year, with Daft Punk and Arctic Monkeys taking the top prizes. What do you think? Read more here.

6.16am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Um, are Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth back together? What!?

6.14am Don’t forget the Twilight markets are on tonight. They will run from 5.30pm to 8.30pm at Flagstaff Hill. People can bring along a gift for the Lord Mayor’s Giving Tree or enjoy a chocolate-dipped strawberry to mark World Aids Day. There will be Christmas carols and a visit from Santa.

6.12am Check out all the action from yesterday's Housing Trust annual Christmas party here. Merc photographer Christopher Chan has a great gallery of pics.

6.10am WORLD NEWS: At first, she was known only as CJ, with the Twitter name of @ScanCouver - a woman who lives in Vancouver in the state of Washington, US, and who tweets about local news and traffic incidents. But on Wednesday, what began as a routine series of tweets by Caran Johnson about a two-vehicle crash on a local motorway turned into a heartbreaking personal tragedy that unfolded on social media, as she began to suspect one of the people involved in the accident was her husband, Craig. Read more here.

6.08am Our resident Merc baker Kate Shepherd has been whipping up sweet treats again - this time, it's honeycomb! Delish!

6.06am Let's have a look at the national headlines (from the SMH):

*The Abbott government is holding firm in the face of dire warnings from Qantas that it faces a financial crisis.

*Telstra has installed surveillance systems to ‘‘vacuum’’ the telephone calls, texts, social media and internet metadata of millions of Australians.

*Chris Hartcher will face two separate corruption inquiries next year, including an investigation into a water infrastructure company linked to the family of former Labor MP Eddie Obeid.

*CRICKET: Graeme Swann says England’s gamble of playing two spinners in the second Test is set to pay dividends.

6.04am Here's what's making news in your Mercury this morning:

*Christmas has come a few weeks early for the 12 projects that will receive money from the NSW government's $100 million Restart Illawarra infrastructure fund. For a full list & more details, visit here.

*A baby boy was not expected to live after being violently shaken by his father, a Wollongong court heard on Thursday. Read more here.

*The second most senior executive within the NSW State Emergency Service passed on a text message to his boss which said a female colleague would ‘‘get what she deserves’’, a corruption inquiry heard on Thursday.

*Proactive comments from two Wollongong Liberal councillors have drawn fire from the union that represents council workers, with a warning it is prepared to fight to protect jobs. Read more here.

6.02am If you've just tuned in, let's have a look at what's in the sky, what's on the road and what's on the railway tracks this morning.

WEATHER Oh man is it chilly out there this morning! We're headed for a sunny day with a top of 21 degrees but the wind chill factor is making things a little cool right now. If you're heading out for a walk, take a jumper! We're set for a mostly sunny weekend too with tops of 23 on Saturday and 26 on Sunday. Right now in Bellambi, it's 12 degrees (but with wind chill, it's more like 9!)

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay on the region's roads. Don't forget those changed traffic conditions at Appin (Appin Rd b/w Rixon Rd & Brian Rd), slow down there. If you're making the journey to Sydney, there is an accident at Taren Point (Taren Point Rd approaching Captain Cook bridge). One southbound lane is closed & two northbound lanes are shut. Be careful. 

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

6am TGIF, we made it to the end of the week! Welcome to a rather breezy edition of the Rush - it's chilly out there for your Friday morning. Stay with us for all the latest news, sport, weather, traffic & online goss.

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