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

8.25am That's it from us this morning. Enjoy your Friday & we'll catch you on the flip side.

8.19am TRAIN ALERT: Trains have resumed on the South Coast line between Waterfall and Thirroul but buses continue to supplement the service. Allow plenty of extra time.

8.17am Good news! Morning Rush WILL be back next week! Your usual host Emma Spillett will be having a little break but Kate Walsh is going to take over for the week. 

8.15am BREAKING: A Swiss woman has been arrested after customs officers allegedly discovered 2.5 kilograms of the drug ‘‘ice’’ hidden in several handbags. The 51-year-old woman arrived at Sydney International Airport on a flight from China on Wednesday when customs made the discovery. She was charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. She appeared in Sydney’s Central Local Court on Thursday. (AAP)

8.13am Quay Collective is hosting a pop-up exhibition tonight. Check out all the deets below.

8.11am Michael Duchesne is playing @ Blue Diamond Bar in the Sebel Harbourside Kiama tonight from 7-10pm. Michael sent Seal into a frenzy on the latest The Voice. 

8.09am Qantas customers left stranded when the fleet was grounded two years ago have only one day left to get on a flight if they want to use the vouchers the airline gave them in compensation.

8.07am SPORT: Cronulla playmaker Todd Carney says everybody's over the supplements saga gripping the Sharks and the sooner the NRL deals with it the better for the game.

8.05am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Ellen DeGeneres would like her fans to know that her marriage is just fine, no matter what they're printing out there. In an oft-times hilarious monologue on the Wednesday edition of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the host, who married actress Portia de Rossi in 2008, describes stumbling over a celebrity tabloid at the hair salon and noticing herself and her wife in the upper right-hand corne

8.01am Check out the weirdest baby names of 2013 - there are some doozies!

7.59am TRAFFIC ALERT: All northbound lanes are now open on Taren Point Road. All diversions have been lifted. Traffic remains heavy. Motorists are advised to allow additional travel time. 

7.58am The cost of paper-based public transport tickets will rise from early next year, but the government will try to lure more commuters onto the Opal card by holding those fares steady.

7.57am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*The next stage of the anticipated West Keira shopping centre development kicked off on Wednesday night, with the first steps to connect the new $200 million project with the existing Wollongong Central building.

*Demand for apartments has been so strong within one of the city's newest and largest residential complexes, the first stage is almost sold out.

*The Illawarra community should brace for more bad news over the troubled miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, Member for Heathcote Lee Evans said yesterday.

*A police operation targeting defective trucks at a Kiama heavy vehicle stopping bay has resulted in 25 defect notices and 32 infringement notices in a single day.

7.55am TGIF Illawarra! Let's have a look at all your weather, traffic & trains this morning as you head to work on this glorious Friday - only 12 sleeps until Christmas.

WEATHER We're headed for a mostly sunny day with a top of 26 degrees (yes!) There is the chance of a shower tonight & some light wind around. Fire danger is very high. The weekend .... well, things look a little less peachy. We've got possible showers tomorrow & Sunday with tops of just 21 & 22 degrees. Poop. Right now it's 18 in Albion Park & 20 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks okay on the region's roads - that earlier accident at Bombo has been cleared. Don't forget Macquarie Pass will be shut today for road works from 9am to 3pm. Use Picton Rd instead. Watch out for that accident on Taren Point Road. All northbound lanes are closed due to a multiple vehicle accident at Holt Road. Northbound traffic is being diverted via The Boulevarde. Traffic is heavy and motorists are experiencing significant delays. Motorists are advised to avoid the area, and consider using Tom Uglys Bridge as an alternative

TRAINS Limited buses are operating between Thirroul and Waterfall due to a South Coast line closure. Allow plenty of additional time.

7.52am LOCAL NEWS: Shellharbour City Council will offer the Warilla Library and adjoining land containing the Freedom Wall and Peace Grove as part of the sale of the former council chambers and administration building at Warilla.

7.50am TRAINS ALERT: Limited buses now operating between Thirroul and Waterfall due to a South Coast line closure. Allow plenty of additional time.

7.48am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Apparently Justin Bieber's Latin American tour may lead to his arrest.

7.44am TRAFFIC ALERT: All northbound lanes on Taren Point Road are closed in Taren Point due to a multiple vehicle accident at Holt Road. Northbound traffic is being diverted via The Boulevarde. Traffic is heavy and motorists are experiencing significant delays. Motorists are advised to avoid the area, and consider using Tom Uglys Bridge as an alternative.

7.43am LOCAL NEWS: Bashing victim Simon Cramp threw the first punch during a drunken melee that ended with him being placed on life support in hospital, the lawyer for the accused says.

7.41am BREAKING: Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens has indicated he wants an Aussie dollar closer to 85 US cents, while pointing to "promising signs" that the economy is transitioning away from the mining boom.

7.39am Mark Thornton is playing @ Kiama Inn tonight from 9pm. The Kiama musician performs guitar & vocals with a jazz, blues, rock vibe.

7.37am WORLD NEWS: As America prepares to mark the first anniversary of the murder of 20 children and six staff at the Sandy Hook elementary school, Australia has again become a focus of the increasingly bitter debate over gun control in the United States.

7.33am Want to see Anchorman 2? We're giving away tickets for you and four friends to see it! But get in quick, the competition ends on Sunday. Enter here for your chance to win.

7.31am BREAKING: A man is refusing to co-operate with police after he took himself to a Brisbane hospital with gunshot wound. Police say they haven’t been able to set up a crime scene because the man won’t tell them where he was shot. The 35-year-old victim will undergo surgery today for the wound to his right hip. He took himself to the Prince Charles Hospital about 1am. Police say they’d like to hear from anyone who witnessed or heard a disturbance in the Nundah area, in north-east Brisbane, where the shooting may have occurred. (AAP)

7.29am LOCAL SPORT: Avoiding a repeat of last week's nervous start is high on the wish list of the Wollongong Hawks for tomorrow night's meeting with long-time rivals Sydney.

7.25am Have you checked out our Merc photographers new Facebook page? It's great - see the class of 2013 in all their glory!

7.23am Almost $90 million worth of animated films will be produced in Western Australia as part of a deal struck with a Chinese studio.

7.18am TRAIN ALERT: Passengers travelling to Sydney on the South Coast line should make their way to Waterfall (if possible) to contine their trip due to partial closure.

7.16am So, this happened. That's right - it's a Nutella pop-up store. Now, I'm not personally a fan of the chocolate-like spread but I know heaps of people who will be excited by this development.

7.14am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Queen Elizabeth II was "upset" that police officers deployed to Buckingham Palace were eating nuts left out as snacks, Britain's phone-hacking trial has heard.

7.12am Don't forget the Figtree Community Carols is on Saturday night. Entry is free, with entertainment and singing provided by primarily local talent. Low cost barbecue and other food vendors are available together with a selection of rides for all ages. The evening concludes with a fantastic fireworks display.

7.10am MORE CELEB NEWS: Cate Blanchett has been nominated for a Golden Globe, alongside Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Emma Thompson & Kate Winslet. Check out other nominees here.

7.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: The Grammy nominations were announced earlier this week and shock, horror, Kanye West is NOT happy he only received two nods.

7.06am A Berkeley man who confessed to trading dozens of images and videos of child pornography via the internet used the email "fiddiekiddler@hotmail.com" to communicate with others, a court has heard.

7.04am It's the season of giving so we’d like to give you a $100 Coles Group and Myer Gift Card. Simply subscribe to an Illawarra Mercury print and digital subscription package for just $25 every 4 weeks.Hurry, offer ends December 18, 2013. Subscribe by calling 4221 2234 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

7.02am Wet'n'Wild Sydney opened yesterday - are you planning on checking it out this summer?

7am TRAIN ALERT - South Coast line: The line ispartially closed between Waterfall and Thirroul due to a safety monitor being activated at Helensburgh. Delay travel. Buses are to replace trains but are yet to arrive.

6.57am LOCAL SPORT: From the Cook Islands to Cronulla, the Five Islands Outrigger Canoe Club have racked up the kilometres to start their new season.

6.55am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*The next stage of the anticipated West Keira shopping centre development kicked off on Wednesday night, with the first steps to connect the new $200 million project with the existing Wollongong Central building.

*Demand for apartments has been so strong within one of the city's newest and largest residential complexes, the first stage is almost sold out.

*The Illawarra community should brace for more bad news over the troubled miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, Member for Heathcote Lee Evans said yesterday.

*A police operation targeting defective trucks at a Kiama heavy vehicle stopping bay has resulted in 25 defect notices and 32 infringement notices in a single day.

6.53am Let's have a look at all your weather, traffic & trains this morning as you get out of bed on this glorious Friday - only 12 sleeps until Christmas.

WEATHER We're headed for a mostly sunny day with a top of 26 degrees (yes!) There is the chance of a shower tonight & some light wind around. Fire danger is very high. The weekend .... well, things look a little less peachy. We've got possible showers tomorrow & Sunday with tops of just 21 & 22 degrees. Poop. Right now it's 15 in Albion Park & 18 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks okay on the region's roads - that earlier accident at Bombo has been cleared. Don't forget Macquarie Pass will be shut today for road works from 9am to 3pm. Use Picton Rd instead. Everything looks okay for the drive to Sydney too.

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

6.51am SPORT: England coach Steve McNamara has been appointed as an assistant coach at the Sydney Roosters.

6.49am Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. You have to see this pic of Flint the Pomeranian. I'm dying. My life is complete. Oh the cuteness!!!!

6.47am LOCAL NEWS: The IRT Group intends to expand its Illawarra aged-care facilities after acquiring 16 hectares next to its William Beach Gardens facility in Kanahooka.

6.45am It's Friday the 13th! I just realised that one! Try to avoid breaking mirrors, black cats & walking under ladders today - v bad juju I hear.

6.43am Interesting article on Mamamia last night about smacking kids. The PM reckons a "gentle smack" is okay for children - what do you think?

6.40am Australia has been accused of failing to defend its historic plain packaging tobacco legislation, with one report from Singapore talks describing Australia as a ‘‘constant stumbling block’’ to other nations attempting to secure the right to follow suit

6.38am Are you keen to sing your little heart out over the next week or so, to really bring in the festive season? Well, check out our guide to Christmas carols around the region - you could sing carols every night for the next week or so!

6.36am MOVIE NEWS: Hollywood heavyweights Bob and Harvey Weinstein are suing Hollywood studio Warner Bros over a share of the profits in the forthcoming second and third instalments of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy.

6.34am LOCAL SPORT: Julie Nicoll will pack her desk for the final time today after a 20-year tenure, which started out as a match-day hostess for the Steelers and eventually evolved into the Coal League's long-serving administrator.

6.32am Teeheehee it's funny cat pic time! This one is a doozy. Oh so funny - I'll be over here chuckling.

6.30am NATIONAL NEWS: A debate has broken out between established taxi networks and smartphone taxi apps over the new practice of passengers bidding against each other for a ride. While one app founder says passengers are willing to pay a tip of up to $50 for prompt service and it helps them secure a cab, the NSW Taxi Council says such practices are discriminatory and has called on passengers to avoid entering a "bidding war".

6.28am Little Gabriel Angeleski has spent three out of his four Christmas Days in hospital, but he’s hoping to buck the trend this year. The Warrawong boy, who has haemophilia, was among the children who received a visit from Santa and the KidzWish fairy at Wollongong Hospital’s children’s ward on Thursday.

6.26am TV ALERT: Looking for love? Want to meet the man/woman of your dreams? The Bachelor is looking for single girls & guys for its next season. Enter now!

6.24am Don't forget Birds of Tokyo are playing @ Waves this Sunday @ 7pm. Tickets are still available - general Admission $41.50 + bf (presale). Grab 'em via Moshtix.

6.22am STRANGE BUT TRUE: If you think all hotels are the same, try staying in one of these wacky digs. In a hole, under the sea, on the edge of a cliff . . . not places that generally come to mind as somewhere to bed down for the night. But everything goes with a spate of novelty hotels coming online around the world, as architects and developers try to outdo each other with crazy designs and concepts. Check out some truly odd hotels here.

6.20am The Merc's resident baker Kate Shepherd has released another delish recipe - this time, it's rocky road ice-cream puddings. OMG. This woman can do no wrong!

6.18am Don't forget to pick up a copy of tomorrow's Mercury for the latest in our Christmas lights competition - we'll have a list of great houses to visit! The comp ends on Sunday so get in quick - enter your sparkly house via the Merc's iphone app to win great prizes.

6.16am Schools need to introduce education programs on sexual behaviour earlier, and parents need to take more responsibility to protect their teens, experts have warned.

6.14am WORLD NEWS: The bizarre story of the supposed interpreter, identified as Thamsanqa Jantjie, at Nelson Mandela's funeral continues.He is accused by sign-language experts of being a fraud, yet in a series of interviews yesterday he said he suffered from schizophrenia, had visions of angels while he was supposed to be interpreting for global dignitaries and begged forgiveness.

6.12am Check out basketball writer Tim Keeble's latest edition of Hoopla, ahead of the Hawks clash with the Kings in Sydney tomorrow night.

6.10am Don't forget the Shellharbour City Carols by Candlelight are on tonight at Reddall Reserve, Lake Illawarra. The festivities get underway with kids entertainment from 5.30pm followed by the two-hour carols spectacular from 6.30pm.Santa Claus will make a special appearance along with some of the region’s most talented singers and musicians, and the will end with a grand finale of fireworks. A fun night for the whole family!

6.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Glee star Lea Michele has spoken out for the first time since the death of her partner & co-star Cory Monteith. Check it out.

6.06am Let's check out the national headlines, courtesy of the SMH:

*The NSW government has pared back its expectations for economic growth and forecast the state’s unemployment rate will climb to its highest level since the global financial crisis.

*Toyota stands to become one of the most heavily subsidised car manufacturers since the birth of Holden, as federal and state governments enter desperate negotiations to try to keep the company operating.

*The Perth test is not only Michael Clarke’s 100th Test, but an opportunity for Australia to win the Ashes.

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

*The next stage of the anticipated West Keira shopping centre development kicked off on Wednesday night, with the first steps to connect the new $200 million project with the existing Wollongong Central building.

*Demand for apartments has been so strong within one of the city's newest and largest residential complexes, the first stage is almost sold out.

*The Illawarra community should brace for more bad news over the troubled miner Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, Member for Heathcote Lee Evans said yesterday.

*A police operation targeting defective trucks at a Kiama heavy vehicle stopping bay has resulted in 25 defect notices and 32 infringement notices in a single day.

6.02am Let's have a look at all your weather, traffic & trains this morning as you get out of bed on this glorious Friday - only 12 sleeps until Christmas.

WEATHER We're headed for a mostly sunny day with a top of 26 degrees (yes!) There is the chance of a shower tonight & some light wind around. Fire danger is very high. The weekend .... well, things look a little less peachy. We've got possible showers tomorrow & Sunday with tops of just 21 & 22 degrees. Poop.

TRAFFIC There has been an accident at Bombo this morning. Emergency services are on the scene, be careful on the Princes Hwy around there. Don't forget Macquarie Pass will be shut today for road works from 9am to 3pm. Use Picton Rd instead. Everything looks okay for the drive to Sydney - there is a car breakdown @ Bexley (M5 East Mwy in main tunnel) closing one westbound lane so just allow some extra time through there.

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

6am TGIF Illawarra! We made it to the end of the week, woohoo! Stay with us this morning for all the latest news, sport, weather & online buzz.

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