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

8.53am That's it from us this morning. Have a wonderful Tuesday. And a very special happy birthday to my wonderful mum who is celebrating today. I love you very much. See y'all tomorrow!

8.51am Good morning! If you're just joining us, let's have a look at your weather, traffic & trains for this Tuesday morning.

WEATHER It's going to be a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. We may have some Isolated showers tonight. But how about those winds? We've got westerlies blowing right now, which is making things a little uncomfortable. Plus, it's quite warm already! Right now, it's 26 degrees in Albion Park and Bellambi! Phew, steamy!

TRAFFIC Everything looks clear around town. Just watch those wires down @ Heathcote - they're causing a few problems. Expect some delays around there.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line but some delays on the Southern Highlands line

8.48am SPORT: Australian-born American international second row forward Hayden Smith has returned to leading English rugby union club Saracens after spending 18 months with the New York Jets in the NFL. (SMH)

8.36am She came in like a wrecking balllll .... or on a bauble....

8.34am Celeb chef Stephanie Alexander has some tips for a stress-free but delicious Christmas feast. Check them out here.

8.32am BREAKING: Qantas boss Alan Joyce insists his languishing airline is not looking for a government bailout, unlike Australian car makers. ‘‘Qantas is not Holden,’’ he wrote in The Australian on Tuesday. Since being privatised in 1995, the airline had performed strongly without taxpayer subsidies or tax concessions.Nor had Qantas received preferential treatment on airport access or government travel.‘‘Qantas is not seeking an anti-competitive handout or bailout,’’ Mr Joyce said.But there were actions the federal government could take right now and the airline was in discussions about them. (AAP)

8.30am TRAFFIC ALERT - Heathcote (Princes Hwy near Oliver St) - wires down impacting southbound traffic. Moderate delays, exercise caution.

8.28am Don't forget the Figtree Community Carols are on this Saturday. Enjoy carols & a wonderful fireworks display.

8.25am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A woman who faithfully taped 35 years of TV news with the hope that one day it would prove to be valuable historical material did not live to see her dream realised. But the vision of Philadelphia resident Marion Stokes, who died last year at 83, will become a reality now that her 140,000 video cassettes are being archived in an online library.

8.23am BREAKING: Just days out from the start of this year's Meredith Music Festival, Melbourne troubadour Vance Joy has pulled out of the event due to illness.

8.20am Feel like getting into the Christmas spirit? Here's some Christmas movies to get you feeling festive.

8.18am SPORT: The 2014 World Cup draw that grouped Iran with heavyweights Argentina has provoked thousands of Iranians to trash the Facebook page of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi. (SMH)

8.16am BREAKING: The flag at Parliament house has been lowered to half-mast, as a sign of respect to the late Nelson Mandela. (Nine News)

8.14am LOCAL SPORT: Wollongong leading scorer Rotnei Clarke threw a scare into the Hawks camp when injury prevented him from training yesterday. Clarke, third in the NBL in scoring with 20.8 points per game, copped a knock to his calf in Saturday's 73-69 home win over Sydney.

8.12am Don't forget the Wiggles are on next Tuesday. I tell you this now so you can start planning where to park.

8.10am So I don't have a hilarious animal pic this morning but I do have a great pic of some kids. I love this one, just so funny.

8.08am A Bathurst train builder has admitted spraying a teenage apprentice with flammable liquid while he was welding, knowing it would catch alight, but denies the youth was being picked on.

8.06am Behold, "loots" - leggings with in-built boots. I know, I'm scared too.

8.04am The Noël! Noël! concerts of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Brandenburg Choir will return to St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral tomorrow at 7pm.

8.02am TRAIN ALERT: Buses are replacing the 8am Moss Vale to Campbelltown train due to a train requiring mechanical repairs.

8am Have you entered our comp to win tickets to Disney Live? Enter here for your chance to win.

7.57am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Lady Gaga has donned a Christmas outfit to get us all in the festive mood. (Note - do not try this in your workplace)

7.55am BREAKING: Queensland paedophile Peter Truong, who bought a newborn boy for $US8000 ($8784) and then allowed men around the world to be abuse the child, has been sentenced in a US court to 30 years' jail.

7.53am Here's all the news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong councillors took the first official step towards raising rates at last night's meeting, endorsing budget scenarios that will deliver rate hikes of 16 to 25 per cent over three years

*About 100 residents rallied outside Wollongong City Council's Burelli Street headquarters last night, calling on councillors to scrap all budget options put forward in the financial sustainability review. Read more here.

*A 35-year-old woman was trapped for more than 45 minutes after the ute in which she was travelling and a semi-trailer collided on Mount Ousley Road yesterday morning.

*Christmas light thieves have struck at the Shell Cove headquarters of children's charity KidzWish Foundation in a raid that has disgusted the group's founder. Strings of solar-powered stars were cut from the KidzWish Place fence - a move that will render them useless - and removed at the weekend. Read more here.

7.51am Good morning! If you're just joining us, let's have a look at your weather, traffic & trains for this Tuesday morning.

WEATHER It's going to be a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. We may have some Isolated showers tonight. But how about those winds? We've got westerlies blowing right now, which is making things a little uncomfortable. Plus, it's quite warm already! Right now, it's 24 degrees in Albion Park and Bellambi! Phew, steamy!

TRAFFIC Everything looks clear around town & for the run to Sydney.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line but some delays on the Southern Highlands line.

7.49am Are you planning on checking out the Botanic Garden's sunset cinema over the holidays? There's a great line-up of films - perfect for a night under the stars.

7.47am Our Whisk & Sift star baker Kate has been creating in the kitchen again - this time, it's spicy apple & raspberry muffins for Christmas morning. Delish. Check out all her baked goods - she's doing a Christmas special at the moment - via her Facebook page.

7.45am About 200 workers will lose their jobs when a coal mine in southern Queensland closes at the end of the year. US-based company Peabody Energy has announced it will shut down its Wilkie Creek mine in the Surat Basin, 30km northwest of Dalby.(AAP)

7.42am Tis the season to be jolly. Literally. But if you want to avoid stacking on the Christmas pounds, try these tips from the SMH. Minimise your treats & ditch the booze for a start!

7.40am A storm of Santas, an avalanche of elves and a cavalcade of Christmas cheer is about to hit Wollongong, with the annual Santa Claus Pub Crawl to take over the CBD this weekend.

7.38am Two men died in a workplace accident at Mount Lyell mine in Queenstown yesterday. Emergency services responded to the incident before 11am. The men, aged 25 and 45, both of Queenstown, were employed by Copper Mines of Tasmania. (Fairfax)

7.35am SPORT: Football Federation Australia is preparing for a possible all Sydney A-League grand final, booking out ANZ Stadium to host the potential blockbuster on May 4. The FFA has pencilled in ANZ Stadium to host the grand final if the Western Sydney Wanderers (second) meet Sydney FC (fourth) in the decider, but also haven't ruled out a switch to the Olympic venue if the Wanderers were to host a team from outside Sydney. (SMH)

7.33am TIARA ALERT: Our fave princess Kate Middleton "fist pumped" (yep, you read it right!) a little girl yesterday. Oh man I love her!

7.31am Speaking of Christmas (what a nice segue I managed there!?), Kiama Carols in the Park is on tomorrow. Bring the family down early for a great carol concert in beautiful Hindmarsh Park. Make sure you come down early to reserve your spot! The concert kicks off at 7.30pm.

7.29am Have you entered the Merc's Christmas lights competition yet? There are some truly amazing houses out there - I really envy those who can put together a stellar Xmas lights display. Enter now via the Merc's iphone app to win great prizes!

7.26am CELEB GOSS ALERT: The big screen’s controversial Batman-to-be, actor Ben Affleck, has revealed he turned down the coveted role in the upcoming blockbuster Batman vs Superman when it was first offered to him. Read more here.

7.24am I love this link this morning - 23 signs you're obsessed with Downton Abbey.

7.22am A former Qantas airline steward who worked business class flights to America for several months with a ''raging'' ice habit faces jail for importing about $200,000 of the drug

7.21am Kiama Municipal Council will switch on a network of 13 CCTV cameras in the Kiama CBD in May next year after the NSW government announced it would receive $50,000 required to commence the project.

7.18am And in other sport news, grab your copy of today's Mercury for basketball writer Tim Keeble's Hoopla - and congrats to the Hawks on their win on Saturday night! Yippee!

7.16am SPORT: Mitchell Johnson is free to continue intimidating England's batsmen after the tearaway quick was cleared to play in the Third Test starting in Perth on Friday despite a physical clash with Ben Stokes.

7.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Leonardo Dicaprio has just launched his own race car team.

7.12am TRAFFIC ALERT: Access to Keira Street between Market and Crown St and Crown Lane will be closed from Monday to Wednesday nights until mid December for building work associated with the West Keira shopping complex. Night work will continue until Dec 18, weather permitting. Detours will be in place to direct motorists and pedestrians around the work. Motorists are reminded to follow reduced speed limits and the directions of traffic controllers. 

7.10am WORLD NEWS: Heavily armed riot troops broke into an opposition party office in central Kiev on Monday and seized its servers, the party said, as Ukraine's anti-government protests crippled the capital for yet another day. (SMH)

7.08am A Berkeley man who used a high-powered rifle to shoot and kill two deer close to homes at Figtree did not have the appropriate licences to hunt wild game or fire the rifle he used to bring down the animals, a court has heard.

7.06am Looking to DIY this Christmas? Join Louise from local print studio Drawstring Handmade as she teaches you how to carve festive stamps to print beautiful Christmas stationery using block printing techniques and gorgeous inks. An easy, addictive and very effective craft. It's on tonight @ Anchors Aweigh Art Studio, 138b Auburn St, Coniston.

7.04am STRANGE BUT TRUE: X factor judge Ronan Keating will lend his singing voice to the big-screen musical adaptation of Britain's well-loved children's TV series Postman Pat. Um, okay. I loved Postman Pat but really, a movie? With Ronan?

7.02am LOCAL SPORT: A decade has passed since the once mighty Hockeyroos last claimed a global title, but coach Adam Commens believes Australia can again be considered a force despite losing 5-1 to the Netherlands in the women's World League final.

7am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Yesterday, I told you about the plight of Carrie Underwood who got slammed in the US for her performance in the live Sound of Music. Well, she's hittin' back at the "mean people" - via Twitter of course.

6.58am A little history lesson for this Tuesday morning, courtesy of the folk at Kiama Library.

6.56am Here's all the news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong councillors took the first official step towards raising rates at last night's meeting, endorsing budget scenarios that will deliver rate hikes of 16 to 25 per cent over three years

*About 100 residents rallied outside Wollongong City Council's Burelli Street headquarters last night, calling on councillors to scrap all budget options put forward in the financial sustainability review. Read more here.

*A 35-year-old woman was trapped for more than 45 minutes after the ute in which she was travelling and a semi-trailer collided on Mount Ousley Road yesterday morning.

*Christmas light thieves have struck at the Shell Cove headquarters of children's charity KidzWish Foundation in a raid that has disgusted the group's founder. Strings of solar-powered stars were cut from the KidzWish Place fence - a move that will render them useless - and removed at the weekend. Read more here.

6.54am Good morning! If you're just joining us, let's have a look at your weather, traffic & trains for this Tuesday morning.

WEATHER It's going to be a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. We may have some Isolated showers tonight. But how about those winds? We've got westerlies blowing right now, which is making things a little uncomfortable. Plus, it's quite warm already! Right now, it's 23 degrees in Albion Park and 25 in Bellambi! Phew, steamy!

TRAFFIC A tree has fallen on Mt Ousley Rd near Cataract and is blocking one northbound lane. Exercise caution. Otherwise, everything looks clear around town & for the run to Sydney.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line but some delays on the Southern Highlands line.

6.52am BREAKING: A man has had part of his finger severed in a pub brawl in Sydney’s CBD. The 25-year-old man was trying to break up the fight between two men at a hotel on George Street about 9.50pm yesterday when his head was cut and the top of his finger severed, police say. He was taken to Sydney Hospital for surgery, where he remains. The two men involved in the fight are described as being of Asian appearance. (AAP)

6.50am RADIO NEWS: Radio host Sami Lukis has been dumped from Sydney's Kiis 1065 station. Station owner Australian Radio Network (ARN) confirmed the news on Monday in announcing Kiis' new Sydney line-up. The station, currently called Mix FM, will also change its name to Kiis 1065 from January 20. (SMH)

6.48am Members of Helensburgh’s First Lego League team have a busy summer of Lego and learning Spanish ahead of them. Komplete Kaos Inc came second at the First Lego League National Tournament at Macquarie University over the weekend, earning an invitation to attend the European Championships in Spain next May. Read more here.

6.46am Stuart Ayres, the new Minister assisting Premier Barry O'Farrell on western Sydney, says a second Sydney airport is not viable without federal government investment.

6.44am I love this time of year - sometimes I wish I lived in New York at Christmas time, purely so I could visit the Rockefeller tree & skating rink every day. Sigh.

6.42am LOCAL SPORT: Austinmer Blue crews dominated the Saturday's second round of the Warilla Bowls Surf Boat Series at Warilla beach.

6.40am More South Coast trains are running on time according to an Auditor-General’s report released yesterday. About 93 per cent of South Coast trains ran on time in the last financial year, up from 91 per cent in 2011-12 and 89 per cent in 2010-11. 

6.38am TRAFFIC ALERT - Cataract: A tree has fallen on Mt Ousley Rd in the area and is blocking one northbound lane. Exercise caution.

6.36am This year will forever be remembered as the year of the bizarre beauty treatment. Fish pedicure anyone? (My sister had one of these in the UK and thought it was odd but good!) How about a bull semen hair treatment? (Urgh, I don't even want to know.) Check out all the wild & wacky treatments here.

6.34am TRAFFIC UPDATE: Now we're hearing all the northbound lanes have re-opened on Mt Ousley & traffic is easing.

6.32am TRAFFIC UPDATE: That earlier accident @ Mt Ousley is still causing headaches. Expect delays as one of three northbound lanes is blocked.

6.31am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Michelle Obama looked stunning in a green frock at last night's Kennedy Center Honors gala in Washington, DC. What do you think?

6.29am BREAKING: A man murdered a Melbourne couple by repeatedly stabbing them after an argument over a debt for plaster work he had done at their home, a court has heard. Police found a 54-year-old man and 35-year-old woman dead in their Moonee Ponds home on Sunday evening. Their three children, aged between two and five years old, were found in another room uninjured. Mustafa Kunduraci, 44, of Meadow Heights has been charged with the couple’s murder and appeared at an out of sessions court hearing early on Tuesday (AAP)

6.27am SPORT: Far from taking the foot off the pedal, Australia hopes to "bury" England in Perth, where the old enemy has not won in 35 years. Read more here.

6.26am TRAIN ALERT - Southern Highlands line: Buses are replacing the 6.09am Moss Vale to Goulburn service & the 7.40am Goulburn to Central train between Goulburn & Moss Vale

6.24am MOVIE NEWS: We've got scenes from the 50 Shades of Grey film. Its stars have been spotted filming a kissing scene in Vancouver. Ooooo.

6.23am LOCAL SPORT: As Australia prepares for a blockbuster clash with Spain in Brazil, Sydney FC's youth duo Josh MacDonald and Aaron Calver boosted their own World Cup dreams with selection in the Young Socceroos squad. The Illawarra pair were included in a 23-man group made up of the best players from the National Youth League competition

6.22am Have you been catching our crosses with the gang at Pulse FM? Tune into 94.1 for all the morning headlines, straight from the Rush to your ears!

6.18am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Miley Cyrus has a new 'do. And we think she borrowed it from Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

6.16am Lake Heights schoolgirl Bibi Ioannou-Marsh is no longer afraid when her beloved Papu sees strange creatures or talks to someone who isn't there - she's happy to play along. The nine-year-old is one of three children who have shared their experiences about a grandparent with dementia in an animated series by Alzheimer's Australia NSW. Great idea!

6.14am BREAKING: Ticket-sellers are being removed from Sydney train stations where commuters can use the Opal public transport smartcard. On the same day that the auditor-general revealed a further spike in complaints about Sydney’s rail system, unions and rail workers were told about the latest cuts to take place on the train system. Read more here.

6.12am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Angelina Jolie stepped out with her brood in Sydney over the weekend. She took the kids to see the Lion King, including daughter Vivienne who sported a similar outfit to her mama. Cute!

6.10am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A passenger who fell asleep while flying to Los Angeles says he awoke to discover himself alone and locked inside a dark, empty United Express plane in Houston.

6.08am It's National Pastry Day! Okay, so probably only in the US but who cares?! If you're looking for an excuse to down an eclair ... you're welcome!

6.06am Let's check out the national headlines (from the SMH):

* Thousands of Holden workers are expecting to find out their fate today, many weeks after their US head office in Detroit decided to cut them adrift.

*In the Catholic Church’s first appearances at the royal commission, Peter Gray acknowledged children had been abused, crimes had been covered up, wrongdoers protected and victims disbelieved or treated coldly.

*New figures show Australians are ignoring government pleas to work longer and are instead taking early retirement when they reach their 50s.

*The short-film festival Tropfest has found itself the centre of a social media attack after a comedy about gay sex was named best film on Sunday night.

6.04am Here's all the news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong councillors took the first official step towards raising rates at last night's meeting, endorsing budget scenarios that will deliver rate hikes of 16 to 25 per cent over three years

*About 100 residents rallied outside Wollongong City Council's Burelli Street headquarters last night, calling on councillors to scrap all budget options put forward in the financial sustainability review. Read more here.

*A 35-year-old woman was trapped for more than 45 minutes after the ute in which she was travelling and a semi-trailer collided on Mount Ousley Road yesterday morning.

*Christmas light thieves have struck at the Shell Cove headquarters of children's charity KidzWish Foundation in a raid that has disgusted the group's founder. Strings of solar-powered stars were cut from the KidzWish Place fence - a move that will render them useless - and removed at the weekend. Read more here.

6.02am Let's have a look at your weather, traffic & trains for this Tuesday morning.

WEATHER It's going to be a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. We may have some Isolated showers tonight. But how about those winds? We've got westerlies blowing right now, which is making things a little uncomfortable. Plus, it's quite warm already! Right now, it's 22 degrees in Albion Park and 25 in Bellambi! Phew, steamy!

TRAFFIC There is a three car accident on Mt Ousley (Mt Ousley Rd), which is causing a few headaches. One northbound lane is closed & emergency services are on the scene - be careful out there guys! Otherwise, everything looks clear around town & for the run to Sydney.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line but there are delays on the Southern Highlands line.

6am Good morning Illawarra! Happy Tuesday, December 10! Only 15 sleeps until Christmas. Your host is feeling much better and is ready for an exciting morning of news, goss and more.

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