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

8.45am That's it from us this morning! Tune in tomorrow for the TGIF edition of the Rush.

8.37am There are a heap of good live gigs on this weekend. Check out our gig guide for your live music fix.

8.35am On January 8, 1935, a household name was born and this year Elvis Presley would have been turning 79.  The Kings 79th birthday marks the start of the 22nd Parkes Elvis Festival, with fans from across the county converging on the small town to remember The King. Check out all the action here.

8.32am Looking for a family friendly pub to take the kids to these school holidays? Somewhere that you can enjoy a glass of wine while the children run around happily. Well the SMH Good Food guide has you sorted! Check out its list of the best venues here.

8.28am TV GOSS: Entourage fans, celebrate! The movie of the popular TV series is set to start filming soon.

8.25am LOCAL NEWS: When it comes to issues such as noise levels at the Illawarra Regional Airport, the Airport Operations Working Party takes the community’s concerns straight to the operations team. But time is up for the party’s current community members and Shellharbour City Council has invited locals to nominate themselves for the volunteer positions. Read more here.

8.22am BREAKING: Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen to quit Australian rugby. (SMH)

8.19am A little funny for your Thursday morning - here is a weird world record - the largest playable acoustic guitar was found in 1991.

8.16am NATIONAL NEWS: A Sydney father of five killed in the South Sudan conflict has been hailed as ''selfless'' by his family after he was ambushed trying to ferry civilians out of harm's way.

8.13am BREAKING: A man has died after being dropped off at an Adelaide hospital with stab wounds. The man was taken to the Lyell McEwin hospital about 9.50pm on Wednesday, but later died, police say. Police have spoken to two women who were in the car, but say they were uncooperative. The male driver of the car ran off and, despite an extensive search, has not been found. It is not known when the man was stabbed and police want to hear from anyone who saw or heard a disturbance, fight or anything that sounded out of the ordinary before 9.50pm. They also want to hear from anyone who saw a black Commodore sedan arriving at the hospital. (AAP)

8.11am It's show time! Yep, show season is alive and well across the state with the Albion Park Show on this weekend. Grab your giant pumpkin, eat some corn on the cob & admire some beaut utes.

8.07am Want to win tickets to see our Hawks (hopefully) down the Taipans? Then click this link and enter, silly!

8.05am BREAKING SPORT NEWS: Newcastle Knights club official Ben Rogers is facing two assault charges after an incident at a charity fundraiser. Read more here.

8.02am Don't forget Joseph & his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat opens at Roo Theatre tomorrow. Tickets still available, head over to the theatre company's website to book.

7.59am Illawarra women may still apply for a $2000 International Women's Day scholarship, as the application deadline has been extended to February 7. There are four scholarships for women in athletics, arts, education, business and community service, and for indigenous women. Read here for more information.

7.57am Thinking of booking an overseas trip for the US/European summer? Then definitely check out this article with some handy tips on how to avoid getting your stuff nicked while you're o/s. Pesky pickpockets! 

7.55am Let's have a little peek at what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Banned Wollongong financial planner Ross Tarrant has had his bid for reinstatement rejected, ending a two-year appeal process.

*A Lake Heights man nearly severed another man’s arm with a samurai sword over an $800 drug debt, warning him the ‘‘Russians’’ would take out his bloodline if the debt was not paid, a court has heard.

*A 46-year-old man has been charged with murdering his sister, 52-year-old Therese Brown, at their home in Bulli last Friday.

*Councils in the Illawarra should never have been considered for amalgamations, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said yesterday. In welcome news for the region’s councils, the body charged with reviewing the sector has concluded no amalgamations are needed here.

7.53am Morning, morning! If you're just waking up, rise & shine! And also, here's the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER It's a bit of a dreary ol' day out there at the moment. Possible showers throughout the day are forecast and we're headed for a top of 21 degrees. It will be cloudy for most of the day. Right now, in Albion Park, it's 17 degrees and it's 18 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around the region & for the drive to Sydney or Nowra.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line

7.51am LOCAL SPORT: NSW Country will be in a commanding position when their round one clash with Victoria at the Australian Country Championships continues in Canberra today. NSW finished at 7-321 yesterday after skipper Graeme Batty won the toss and elected to bat on a good pitch.The Keira opener said his side was confident of defending the hefty total when play resumes this morning.

7.49am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Sandra Bullock has pulled on our very own Alex Perry for an event in the US. Fab to see a big A-lister wearing an Aussie label! You go girl!

7.46am January 19 is shaping up to be a huge night at Towradgi Beach Hotel. Pseudo Echo & Panachea are playing at the sports bar from 5pm. General Admission $25. Then punters can head next door to Waves from 7pm to see Karnivool & Dead Letter Circus. General Admission $50. Get your tickets now!

7.43am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Pope Francis broke with papal protocol once again yesterday, inviting an old friend for a spin in his panoramic white car during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square. Ha, I like this pope!

7.40am Saw this yesterday and thought it was a good sign of just how cold it is in the US. Hell has literally frozen over.

7.36am MOVIES: The Book Thief opens in cinemas today. Check out the movie review here.

7.34am CELEB NEWS: If you missed this one yesterday, Former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear was shot and killed during a highway robbery, along with her ex-husband.

7.32am SPORT: Cadel Evans will race in the Australian road championship on Sunday, his first appearance in the event in nine years (SMH)

7.30am New year, new fashion mantra. Make 2014 the year you invest in good separates, shop for your body and give your make-up bag a good tidy. For more tips, check out these great fashion resolutions from the SMH.

7.28am LOCAL NEWS: With harvest just weeks away, 2013-14 is shaping up to be a bumper season for South Coast vineyards. Shoalhaven Coast Wine Industry Association president Barry Starkey said local vineyards were looking forward to a good harvest. Read more here.

7.26am CUTE ALERT: I have found a video of a baby polar bear taking its first steps. I actually can't handle the cute. 

7.24am The Illawarra Folk Festival is on next week! Want to win tickets? We're giving away a double pass. Enter here for your chance to score tix.

7.22am BREAKING: Tragedy on the Sunshine Coast this morning - a missing four-year-old boy has been found drowned in a lake.

7.20am WORLD NEWS: The International Space Station will operate for an additional four years, or until 2024, the US space agency says. The $US100 billion ($A112 billion) orbiting outpost has been operational for 15 years, and had been expected to remain open to global collaborators until 2020. (SMH)

7.18am LOCAL NEWS: An Illawarra Aboriginal leader says the nationwide furore over a "racist" Aldi T-shirt shows Australians should celebrate the longevity of indigenous culture, not ignore it. Read more here.

7.16am TV GOSS: Reports of the imminent demise of Downton Abbey are greatly exaggerated, the executive producer of the hit British period drama said, after its record-setting return to US public television. Gareth Neame said "there is no plan to end the show" after production of season five wraps up later this year.

7.14am BREAKING: Four teenagers have been arrested after a police pursuit ended in a car crashing in Sydney’s inner west. The pursuit started at William Henry Street at Ultimo when police tried to pull over the car with five people inside about 3am. The pursuit ended when the car ran a red light and was struck by a truck, police say. The five occupants ran from the scene, but four were arrested a short time later with the help of the dog squad. Two 19-year-old men have been taken to Newtown police station, a 17-year-old youth is being treated in hospital for a cut hand, and a 16-year-old boy has also been taken to hospital as a precaution. Police are still looking for the fifth person. (AAP)

7.11am MOVIE GOSS: There are so many great films set to hit screens in 2014. Check out the Vine's hotly anticipated movies here.

7.09am TV NEWS: Feeling nostalgic? Missing your favourite Friends? Check out this amazing behind-the-scenes video for a reminder of just how good the show was.

7.06am Speaking of local sport, the Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content!

7.04am LOCAL SPORT: As the Dragons welcome a host of new faces to their backline for the upcoming NRL season, 2013 debutant Adam Quinlan is determined not to be forgotten.

7.02am NATIONAL NEWS: A surging population has driven up the number of smokers worldwide, with 35 per cent more people lighting up today than in 1980, a US study has found. More than 6 trillion cigarettes were smoked in 2012, with the rise in smokers soaring in developing countries such as Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Russia. But despite the increase, the proportion of Australians who smoke has dropped to about 17 per cent compared to 35 per cent 30 years ago. However, there are still more than 3 million smokers in Australia.

7am Head into Alibi on Crown St tonight for some live music, courtesy of Lisa, aka Song Bird, from 7.30pmHappy hour is from 4pm to 8pm with $7 cocktails, $5 house spirits & $5 house wine.

6.58am Looking for something to do with the kids these school holidays? Check out our school holiday guide here.

6.56am Let's have a little peek at what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Banned Wollongong financial planner Ross Tarrant has had his bid for reinstatement rejected, ending a two-year appeal process.

*A Lake Heights man nearly severed another man’s arm with a samurai sword over an $800 drug debt, warning him the ‘‘Russians’’ would take out his bloodline if the debt was not paid, a court has heard.

*A 46-year-old man has been charged with murdering his sister, 52-year-old Therese Brown, at their home in Bulli last Friday.

*Councils in the Illawarra should never have been considered for amalgamations, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said yesterday. In welcome news for the region’s councils, the body charged with reviewing the sector has concluded no amalgamations are needed here.

6.54am Morning, morning! If you're just waking up, rise & shine! And also, here's the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER It's a bit of a dreary ol' day out there at the moment. Possible showers throughout the day are forecast and we're headed for a top of 21 degrees. It will be cloudy for most of the day. Right now, in Albion Park, it's 16 degrees and it's 17 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around the region & for the drive to Sydney or Nowra.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line

6.52am TV ALERT: Girls fans, it's back! Yep, that's right - the series is back for Season 3. Writer/creator Lena Dunham has given away a few little spoilers for the season. Check it out here,

6.49am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Oh god no. Hugh Jackman has got a mullet. And there's photographic evidence to prove it. Nooooooooooo!

6.47am The Mercury has today launched its 100 Jobs in 100 days campaign. We have teamed up with New Careers for Aboriginal People (NCAP) initiative. Our campaign, which runs until April, challenges employers to hire an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person trained through NCAP. Read more here.

6.45am MOVIE NEWS: The BAFTA nominations have been announced! Check out the noms here - Cate Blanchett is up against some stiff competition in the best actress category.

6.43am 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.

6.41am LOCAL SPORT: Hawks defensive linchpin Larry Davidson isn't planning on underestimating a Cairns Taipans team without leading scorer Cameron Tragardh when the sides meet on Saturday.

6.39am WORLD NEWS: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are scrapping fewer trips as warmer weather lets them restore schedules after winter storms erased more than 11,000 US flights in four days and marooned millions of fliers.

6.37am After the success of last year's vintage ball, Something for Doris has organised a vintage Autumn festival, to be held on March 9. Sounds cool! See below for more deets.

6.35am SPORT: Olympic swimmer James Magnussen can lay claim to being Bernard Tomic's lucky charm – watching yet another Tomic victory at the Sydney International on Wednesday night. Tomic is yet to lose a game in front of his friend in a record that spans over two years in Sydney, progressing through to the quarter-finals after a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Slovenian Blaz Kavcic.

6.33am NATIONAL NEWS: NSW Fair Trading has warned people to be on the look-out for con artists dressed as monks after dozens of SMH readers said they had been approached by men in orange garb asking for money. One woman said a man dressed as a monk had tried to lead her to an ATM after she had said she had no cash, while another reader said the "monk" had pulled out a credit card machine.

6.31am SHOWBUZZ: Sex and the City fans, keep your fingers, toes & everything else crossed - Sarah Jessica Parker has hinted at a third film! Now, I know the second one was a little sub-par (and it KILLS me to say that!) but wouldn't it be good to see the girls together again!?

6.29am Want to win some pretty VIP tickets to see the Great Gatsby at the Sunset Cinema next weekend? Enter our competition here. Quick, entries close on Sunday.

6.27am BREAKING: A Greenfield Park home was shot at seven times early this morning. Four people were inside at the time but no-one was injured. The gunman is on the run. (Nine News)

6.26am CELEB GOSS ALERT: So, apparently, Leonardo Dicaprio managed to dodge a great white shark attack. Wha?!

6.24am WORLD NEWS: And the weird continues. Dennis Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before leading a squad of former NBA stars in a friendly game on Wednesday as part of his "basketball diplomacy" that has been criticised in the United States as naive and laughable.

6.20am LOCAL NEWS: An Illawarra criminal solicitor has cast doubt on the effectiveness of a Corrective Services NSW crackdown on women found smuggling contraband to incarcerated relatives. Read more here.

6.18am TV NEWS: The plan to bring the hit US television series Modern Family to Australia has taken its first steps: the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker family have bought airline tickets. The series, which is currently in its fifth season, is planning to film an episode Down Under. The cast and crew are set to fly to Australia in the next few months. Filming is expected to take two weeks. (SMH)

6.16am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Ellen DeGeneres has announced she will be hosting the Oscars again this year. Yay! Nice to see a woman hosting the prestigious event.

6.14am Wollongong band Jenny Broke the Window’s new track ’Rum ’n’ Cola’ was listed last week as the second most played track on Triple J. Nice!

6.12am SPORT: England cricketers Matt Prior and Stuart Broad helped rescue a man preparing to jump off a bridge near the team hotel in Sydney. London’s Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that wicketkeeper Prior helped pull the man away from the edge of the Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour and chatted to him, along with fast bowler Broad, for almost an hour before police arrived on the scene.

6.10am BREAKING: A memorial service for Noelene & Yvana Bischoff, the mother & daughter who mysteriously died in Bali while on holidays, will be held in Queensland today. (Nine News)

6.09am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Looks like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are definitely back on. Hmmmmmm.

6.07am Here's your national headlines via the Sydney Morning Herald:

*Juvenile justice officials say that about 70 per cent of young people in custody in NSW were drunk when they committed their crime.

*The body clock may be more influential than previously thought, with researchers finding that it could also play a role in how fat we become and contribute to the risk of diseases such as diabetes.

*The system of linked identification scanners for nightclubs in Kings Cross that the NSW government planned to have in place last month might not be up and running for another six months.

*Economists have warned the Abbott government not to rush to sell off Australia’s remaining Commonwealth-owned businesses, saying the record of privatisation in Australia has been poorer than people think.

6.04am Let's have a little peek at what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Banned Wollongong financial planner Ross Tarrant has had his bid for reinstatement rejected, ending a two-year appeal process.

*A Lake Heights man nearly severed another man’s arm with a samurai sword over an $800 drug debt, warning him the ‘‘Russians’’ would take out his bloodline if the debt was not paid, a court has heard.

*A 46-year-old man has been charged with murdering his sister, 52-year-old Therese Brown, at their home in Bulli last Friday.

*Councils in the Illawarra should never have been considered for amalgamations, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said yesterday. In welcome news for the region’s councils, the body charged with reviewing the sector has concluded no amalgamations are needed here.

6.02am If you're just waking up, rise & shine! And also, here's the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER It's a bit of a dreary ol' day out there at the moment. Possible showers throughout the day are forecast and we're headed for a top of 21 degrees. It will be cloudy for most of the day. Right now, in Albion Park, it's 16 degrees and it's 17 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around the region & for the drive to Sydney or Nowra.

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

6am Good morning y'all! It's Thursday - one day of the working week left, yippee! Hope you're all having a good one - stay with us this morning for all the latest goss.

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