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

9am That's it from me this morning. The Morning Rush is taking a break next week, but will be back on Monday, December 30. Have a safe and happy Christmas.

8.55am Here’s what’s making news in your Mercury today

*Revelations of the sexual assault of two elderly women at a Unanderra nursing home has drawn attention to a "hidden crime" affecting our most frail and vulnerable community members. A federal government report released last month revealed that 378 reports of "alleged or suspected unlawful sexual contact" were made in residential aged care in the last financial year.

*The HSC is done and dusted for another year. Almost 55,000 students across the state received an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR) yesterday, with a stack of Illawarra achievers receiving scores in the high 90s.

*A refurbished amenities block opened at Towradgi cost ratepayers $765,700. The new block  comes with a talking toilet - the self-cleaning, music-playing, automated Exeloo, which greets depositors with a recorded message saying "Welcome to Exeloo", before piping tunes to ease the patrons' passage.

*Former boxing champion Lovemore Ndou graduated from the University of Wollongong yesterday with a masters of law; having already collected degrees in communications and psychology, and a graduate diploma in legal studies, since coming to Australia.

8.51am Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there this morning

WEATHER: Make sure you stay cool today, it’s going to be a hot one, hitting between 35 and 41 degrees across the Illawarra. Already at Wollongong it’s 22 degrees. There is a chance of thunderstorms this morning with little or no rainfall, with showers and storms around higher ground this afternoon. Winds will become light in the early afternoon.

TRAFFIC: A truck has broken down on the Princes Highway near Foxground Road near Foxground. Northbound traffic is affected and motorists are advised to exercise caution. An earlier car break down on the Princes Highway near Bulli hospital.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

8.48am The NSW police are reminding people to stick to the speed limit as they travel over Christmas.

8.44am Ever gone into a room to get something, but can't for the life of you remember what is was once you get there? Here are some tips on preventing short-term memory loss.

8.34am It's world Go Caroling Day! You now have an excuse to sing Christmas songs at your desk all day.

8.31am TRAFFIC ALERT: A truck has broken down on the Princes Highway near Foxground Road near Foxground. Northbound traffic is affected and motorists are advised to exercise caution.

8.28am TRAFFIC ALERT: A car has broken down on the Princes Highway near Bulli hospital. Traffic is affected in both directions.

8.25am WORLD NEWS: Part of the ceiling at London's famous Apollo Theatre has collapsed, trapping and injuring people inside during a performance.

8.20am You're either a big city person, or you're not. Here are some tips on travelling in big cities if you're heading overseas this summer.

8.15am SPORT NEWS: Sonny Bill Williams has signed a two-year deal with the NZRU and the Chiefs and will return to rugby in 2015.

8.11am It's time to start getting ready for the bushfire season ahead.

8.08am WORLD NEWS: Two men have been found guilty of murdering an off-duty British soldier on a London street earlier this year.

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22 face as long as life in prison and will be sentenced at a later date.

The pair ran over soldier Lee Rigby before attacking the unconscious soldier with knives and cleavers, prosecutors said during the trial.

8.06am Let’s take a look a national news, courtesy of the SMH

*A woman who drove into a group of children, fatally injuring one, outside a public school on Wednesday morning may have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake as she did a three-point turn. Six-year-old Akshay, who was on holidays from Malaysia with his mother Fung Yin Ong, was killed instantly.

*A Fairfax Media investigation has found Australians' superannuation cash is being pushed into low-returning savings accounts that help boost the profits of the big four banks. Instead of diversifying and chasing the best returns in the highly competitive cash management market, big bank-owned fund managers are putting the cash into accounts operated by their big-bank parents.

*A 44-year-old woman from Seymour in Victoria has died from a heart attack after waiting 29 minutes for an ambulance, in a case paramedics say highlights dangerous gaps in rural ambulance coverage.

*British department chain Marks & Spencer is reportedly looking at opening a store in Sydney, following the lead of labels H&M and Zara.

8.03am Here’s what’s making news in your Mercury today

*Revelations of the sexual assault of two elderly women at a Unanderra nursing home has drawn attention to a "hidden crime" affecting our most frail and vulnerable community members. A federal government report released last month revealed that 378 reports of "alleged or suspected unlawful sexual contact" were made in residential aged care in the last financial year.

*The HSC is done and dusted for another year. Almost 55,000 students across the state received an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR) yesterday, with a stack of Illawarra achievers receiving scores in the high 90s.

*A refurbished amenities block opened at Towradgi cost ratepayers $765,700. The new block  comes with a talking toilet - the self-cleaning, music-playing, automated Exeloo, which greets depositors with a recorded message saying "Welcome to Exeloo", before piping tunes to ease the patrons' passage.

*Former boxing champion Lovemore Ndou graduated from the University of Wollongong yesterday with a masters of law; having already collected degrees in communications and psychology, and a graduate diploma in legal studies, since coming to Australia.

8am Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there this morning

WEATHER: Make sure you stay cool today, it’s going to be a hot one, hitting between 35 and 41 degrees across the Illawarra. Already at Wollongong it’s 22 degrees. There is a chance of thunderstorms this morning with little or no rainfall, with showers and storms around higher ground this afternoon. Winds will become light in the early afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s a nice clear run from Nowra to Sydney this morning.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

7.58am All my efforts at trying to get a Santa hat onto my dog have been thwarted. So instead I will enjoy this cute puppy!

7.54am Cab driver Ray Agostini, who has been driving cabs for seven years, said the recent proposal by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for a freeze on fares for 2014-15 made good sense.

In a draft report this week, IPART proposed the fare freeze for NSW metropolitan taxi fares, along with issuing another 190 taxi licences

7.50am Soon-to-open Wollongong bakery Three Chimneys keeps teasing us with pictures of freshly baked bread. Mouthwatering, especially when you have been craving vegemite toast all morning. They're set to open in January.

7.48am Not everyone is keen to spread Christmas cheer during the festive season. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned people to watch out for fake delivery in the lead up to Christmas day.

Scammers contact victims posing as employees from a legitimate parcel delivery service, claiming to have made an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a package to your address and offer to redeliver at a convenient time in exchange for a fee, usually ranging from $10 to $30.

The aim is to trick you into handing over personal details such as your credit card or bank account numbers.

Stay alert, people

7.45am This is great. An article from 1995 arguing that visionaries who see "a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms" are dead wrong. I think teh author's crystal ball may have been faulty.

7.41am Today is the final day of graduations at the University of Wollongong. Marking the end of their tertiary study today are, among others, students gaining degrees in science, psychology, philosophy and public health.

7.38am A big shout out to all the Sagittarius babies out there celebrating their birthday today. You share your birthday with actor Jonah Hill, English football star Ashley Cole and KISS drummer Peter Criss.

7.34am We're giving away family passes to see the new film Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie at Greater Union Wollongong or Shellharbour.

Head here to fill in the entry form for your chance to win. Entries close at 5pm this Sunday.

7.30am In another case of jumping the gun, many retailers have already started their "Boxing Day" sales to entice shoppers to spend big before Christmas. What do you think? Do you prefer discounted Chrissie presents, or is it all a bit much? Read more here.

7.27am LOCAL SPORT NEWS: The best players from the Illawarra Premier League will get the chance to take on the region's elite South Coast Wolves club in a proposed All Stars fixture next year. Football South Coast (FSC) yesterday announced plans for a mixed side from the top local competition to play the Wolves in a friendly match during the 2014 pre-season.

7.23am Wollongong Blues Club in association with Corrimal RSL presents the “Too Close To Xmas Blues Party!”This free event will feature not one, but two leading vocalists in Robert Susz and Pat Powell, back by an all-star band featuring local guitarists Illya Szwec and Bruce Greenfield. Special guest for the evening will be none other than Nick Rheinberger, popular ABC Radio announcer, musician and entertainer. Saturday, December 21 from 7:00pm at the friendly Corrimal RSL Club. All welcome!

7.18am For the first time total revenue from digital album sales have outstripped that from physical albums. Could this be the end of the alphabetised CD rack?

7.15am All donations for the Shellharbour Mayor’s Giving Tree appeal can be placed on the giving box located on the ground floor at the Customer Care Desk at Stockland Shellharbour and under the giving tree which will be located on level one of Council’s Administration Building, Lamerton House. Donations will also be accepted at Blackbutt Youth Centre and at the public libraries throughout the city. Residents are encouraged to leave any unwrapped gifts at any of the locations until 21 December 2013. St Vincent de Paul staff will distribute all gifts in the week before Christmas. 

7.10am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong researchers will receive $30 million in new grants from the Australian Research Council, including $5 million towards a steel manufacturing research hub to improve the competitiveness of Australia's steel industry.

7.06am  Let’s take a look a national news, courtesy of the SMH

*A woman who drove into a group of children, fatally injuring one, outside a public school on Wednesday morning may have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake as she did a three-point turn. Six-year-old Akshay, who was on holidays from Malaysia with his mother Fung Yin Ong, was killed instantly.

*A Fairfax Media investigation has found Australians' superannuation cash is being pushed into low-returning savings accounts that help boost the profits of the big four banks. Instead of diversifying and chasing the best returns in the highly competitive cash management market, big bank-owned fund managers are putting the cash into accounts operated by their big-bank parents.

*A 44-year-old woman from Seymour in Victoria has died from a heart attack after waiting 29 minutes for an ambulance, in a case paramedics say highlights dangerous gaps in rural ambulance coverage.

*British department chain Marks & Spencer is reportedly looking at opening a store in Sydney, following the lead of labels H&M and Zara.

7.03am Here’s what’s making news in your Mercury today

*Revelations of the sexual assault of two elderly women at a Unanderra nursing home has drawn attention to a "hidden crime" affecting our most frail and vulnerable community members. A federal government report released last month revealed that 378 reports of "alleged or suspected unlawful sexual contact" were made in residential aged care in the last financial year.

*The HSC is done and dusted for another year. Almost 55,000 students across the state received an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR) yesterday, with a stack of Illawarra achievers receiving scores in the high 90s.

*A refurbished amenities block opened at Towradgi cost ratepayers $765,700. The new block  comes with a talking toilet - the self-cleaning, music-playing, automated Exeloo, which greets depositors with a recorded message saying "Welcome to Exeloo", before piping tunes to ease the patrons' passage.

*Former boxing champion Lovemore Ndou graduated from the University of Wollongong yesterday with a masters of law; having already collected degrees in communications and psychology, and a graduate diploma in legal studies, since coming to Australia.

7am Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there this morning

WEATHER: Make sure you stay cool today, it’s going to be a hot one, hitting between 35 and 41 degrees across the Illawarra. Already at Wollongong it’s 21 degrees. There is a chance of thunderstorms this morning with little or no rainfall, with showers and storms around higher ground this afternoon. Winds will become light in the early afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s a nice clear run from Nowra to Sydney this morning.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6.58am Remember, there is a total fire ban in place today.

6.56am If you're running around looking for your keys this morning, perhaps this little fella can help?

6.53am Four volunteer firefighters travelling on Berrima Road in Moss Vale were injured yesterday evening when the truck they were driving in crashed into a pole.

The four men were responding to a callout for a fire when the accident happened. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.

6.50am The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Prince William and Kate, will visit Australia and New Zealand in April, Kensington Palace has confirmed. They’re yet to decide whether baby George will be touring with them.

6.45am Justin Bieber told a US radio station he would be retiring after his next album. Depending on your age, this will make you either tremendously happy or devastatingly sad. Here is a list of other jobs Bieber could take up if he did in fact stop singing his (sometimes annoyingly catchy) tunes. Thoughts?

6.42am Nearly 300 armed forces personnel to return to Australia from Afghanistan on Thursday, ending Australia's combat operations in that country. Read some great stories of people reuniting with their loved ones here.

6.38am What do you think of this list of 2013's best albums and songs?

6.32am There's only a few days left in which you can sing Christmas carols without getting confused looks from passersby, so why not take advantage of everyone's current love of Christmas tunes? The City of Wollongong Christmas carols are on at the Botanic Gardens from 6pm tomorrow night, so grab the family, a blanket and a picnic basket and belt out your favourite song.

6.28am The Illawarra is set to sizzle in a statewide heatwave on Friday, with temperatures forecast to hit 35 degrees on the coast and up to 40 degrees in Albion Park.

A total fire ban has been declared for the region due to forecast hot and windy conditions. The ban will commence at midnight on Thursday and remain in place until midnight on Friday. 

6.24am Social media was abuzz with former year 12 students sharing their excitement or their disappointment with their ATAR results. But not everyone welcome the screenshots of the magic number clogging their feeds. Read the SMH's story here.

6.21am TRAIN ALERT: Buses are replacing the 5.31am Goulburn to Central train and the 7.53am Campbelltown to Moss Vale train due to a train requiring mechanical repairs at Moss Vale. 

6.18am LOCAL SPORT NEWS: The possibility of a mid-season knockout tournament and the rejuvenation of the Illawarra Coal League to eight teams will be top of Chris Bannerman's agenda when he assumes the competition's manager role next month. Read more about his plans for the comp here.

6.15am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Corrimal Street in Wollongong on Wednesday, January 15, between 7pm and 5am. The road is being resurfaced, and cars will be advised to a northbound detour via Georges Place, Cliff Road and Bourke Street during the work.

6.12am The Mercury is looking for the Illawarra's Sportsperson of the Year award, the winner to be unveiled on Saturday week. Michelle Carney, Ali Day, Sally Fitzgibbons, Robert Hurley, Emma McKeon, Brett Morris, Aaron Royle and Glen Saville have made the shortlist. Vote on who you think the winner should be here.

6.09am Let’s take a look a national news, courtesy of the SMH

*A woman who drove into a group of children, fatally injuring one, outside a public school on Wednesday morning may have accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake as she did a three-point turn. Six-year-old Akshay, who was on holidays from Malaysia with his mother Fung Yin Ong, was killed instantly.

*A Fairfax Media investigation has found Australians' superannuation cash is being pushed into low-returning savings accounts that help boost the profits of the big four banks. Instead of diversifying and chasing the best returns in the highly competitive cash management market, big bank-owned fund managers are putting the cash into accounts operated by their big-bank parents.

*A 44-year-old woman from Seymour in Victoria has died from a heart attack after waiting 29 minutes for an ambulance, in a case paramedics say highlights dangerous gaps in rural ambulance coverage.

*British department chain Marks & Spencer is reportedly looking at opening a store in Sydney, following the lead of labels H&M and Zara.

6.05am Here’s what’s making news in your Mercury today

*Revelations of the sexual assault of two elderly women at a Unanderra nursing home has drawn attention to a "hidden crime" affecting our most frail and vulnerable community members. A federal government report released last month revealed that 378 reports of "alleged or suspected unlawful sexual contact" were made in residential aged care in the last financial year.

*The HSC is done and dusted for another year. Almost 55,000 students across the state received an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking (ATAR) yesterday, with a stack of Illawarra achievers receiving scores in the high 90s.

*A refurbished amenities block opened at Towradgi cost ratepayers $765,700. The new block  comes with a talking toilet - the self-cleaning, music-playing, automated Exeloo, which greets depositors with a recorded message saying "Welcome to Exeloo", before piping tunes to ease the patrons' passage.

*Former boxing champion Lovemore Ndou graduated from the University of Wollongong yesterday with a masters of law; having already collected degrees in communications and psychology, and a graduate diploma in legal studies, since coming to Australia.

6.02am Let’s take a look at what’s happening out there this morning

WEATHER: Make sure you stay cool today, it’s going to be a hot one, hitting between 35 and 41 degrees across the Illawarra. Already at Wollongong it’s 20.5 degrees. There is a chance of thunderstorms this morning with little or no rainfall, with showers and storms around higher ground this afternoon. Winds will become light in the early afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s a nice clear run from Nowra to Sydney this morning.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6am It's Friday! Hooray! Welcome to the Morning Rush.

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