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

8.49am That's it from us this morning. Tune in tomorrow for Tuesday's edition of the Rush - we'll have all the Golden Globes goss!

8.46am A little history for your Monday morning - today in 1939, 71 people die in Victorian bushfires on 'Black Friday'.

8.44am Ewwwwwwwwwwww. A Fairfax Media investigation has found meat pies are less than one-third meat, while only half a chicken nugget is chicken flesh. Wow, that is truly gross.

8.42am The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content!

8.39am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A costumed character in Times Square has been charged with sex offences for groping people - the latest in bizarre string of such incidents. Jose Vasquez, 44, faces multiple counts of sexual abuse and forcible touching after police saw him allegedly groping women in Times Square while dressed as the cowboy Woody from the Toy Story movies.

8.37am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Corrimal Street in Wollongong on Thursday between 7pm and 5am. Northbound lanes of Corrimal Street will be closed between Gipps Street and Bourke Street, including the Kembla Street intersection. Electronic signs will be in place to direct motorists to a northbound detour via Georges Place, Cliff Road and Bourke Street.

8.35am SPORT: The Poms are whinging about the cricket again - it was far from Alastair Cook's only source of frustration but the England captain felt the umpires' decision to call David Warner back after a contentious catch at the MCG on Sunday night was wrong.

8.33am Heading to Stockland Shellharbour to shop? This week, the centre will also have some great free school holiday events for the kids including the chance to meet some Moshi Monsters.

.8.30am Are you back at work today after Christmas holidays? If so, I'm sorry - I feel your pain, I did it last week and it's very upsetting. If you're struggling to find you work mojo, here's some tips on how to fire up post-holidays.

8.28am POLITICS: Government departments have been quietly given the green light to recruit or keep some of their temporary and casual workers, despite the Abbott government's hiring freeze.

8.26am LOCAL NEWS: Tighter restrictions on the availability of tobacco products are needed to further reduce the number of smokers, according to public health advocate Toby Dawson. Read more here.

8.24am Arrr, beer, so tasty yet so many different drops to choose from. Like wine, different flavours of beer can be paired with different foods for a delicious taste sensation. Check out this guide to matching beers with meals and test it out at your next BBQ.

8.21am BREAKING: There's been a bit of drama on the Golden Globes red carpet… after a water pipe burst! Oops - ladies, pick up those dresses, no-one likes a soggy frock!

8.18am SPORT: Pat Rafter has come out of retirement to team up with Lleyton Hewitt in the men's doubles at this year's Australian Open. Rafter, Australia's Davis Cup captain, hasn't played on tour since he teamed with another Australian, Josh Eagle, in the 2004 Australian Open doubles. (SMH)

8.16am NATIONAL NEWS: An outbreak of bird flu near Young in October could throw free-range egg production in Australia into long-term disarray. Nervous egg farmers won't risk investing in free-range operations after Langfield Pastoral Company, one of Australia's top 10 producers, stopped production in late October.

8.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kim Kardashian and Kanye reportedly want to have their honeymoon in ... SPACE. Wha?!

8.11am Thirroul Bowling Club has carpet bowls from 11am today. Happy Hour kicks off at 4pm with a $3.80 standard schooner. The Boatshed Bistro is open for lunch and dinner.

8.09am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Trains and trams in Australia's major cities were awash with bare legs and briefs yesterday as pranksters travelled trouserless for the world's 13th annual "No Pants Subway Ride".

8.07am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Justin Bieber is in trouble again. This time he's been accused of egging his neighbour's home. Oh dear.

8.05am TV NEWS: Breaking Bad fans, excellent news! A Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul, will premiere in November 2014, but no specific date has been released.

8.03am Albion Park was certainly a busy little place over the weekend! The town welcomed its annual show and the ute show. We've got galleries from both events, check them out here.

8.01am Have you made plans for Australia Day yet? It's sneaking up! Belmore Basin will be the place to be for the day - enjoy the aquathon, breakkie on the beach & heaps of other great events.

7.59am STRANGE BUT TRUE: How would you like a gold facial? Well, now you can! It's on offer at the Talise Ottoman Spa, part of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel in Dubai. The facial involves a 24-carat-gold chain mask being placed over the face. The 90-minute facial is part of a full-day treatment package, which will set you back a mere $7600.

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

*A gorgeous story on a super cute little boy - for Dane Aronsten, his first day of day care last Tuesday marked the start of catching up on a childhood interrupted by heart and digestive conditions.

*A 28-year-old woman was accosted by a man while walking along the pathway through Puckeys Estate yesterday. The incident occurred at about 5pm on Sunday, according to a witness on Fairy Creek bridge who called police on his mobile phone after the woman ran from the bush

*A private main was responsible for a sewage leak into Belmore Basin on Saturday, Sydney Water has confirmed.

*The NSW government funding increase for roads maintenance in the Illawarra is the lowest of seven key regions, while the Hunter’s allocation almost doubled.

7.55am Good morning Illawarra! Hope you had a fab weekend. Here's the latest weather, traffic and trains for your morning.

WEATHER We're headed for a partly cloudy day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds and fire danger is high. Right now, it's 19 degrees in Bellambi and 16 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay on the region's roads, just watch out for those road works at Gerringong & Waterfall. The roads look clear for the run to Sydney & if you're heading south.

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

7.51am LOCAL SPORT: A host of Australia’s most promising young bowlers headline the 27th annual Junior South Pacific which begins today  at Warilla Bowling Club.

7.49am Looking for some inspiration in the kitchen this week? Check out this weekly meal planner, courtesy of the SMH's Good Food section.

7.45am Workers in Wollongong's CBD will be able to park in the city for longer from today, thanks to an extension of parking zones at two council-run car parks. Wollongong City Council's 32-space Rawson Street car park will be increased from four hours to eight hours, with the hourly rate decreased from 75 cents to 60 cents. The 28-space Atchison Street car park will also increase, from two hours to three hours, with the hourly rate dropping from $1 to 75 cents

7.42am WORLD NEWS: Pope Francis has named his first group of cardinals in front thousands of supporters in Saint Peter's Square (Nine News)

7.40am BREAKING: A man is dead and a teenager is seriously injured after a crash in the NSW Blue Mountains. Police say a car towing a trailer lost control on Bells Line Road at Mount Tomah about 11.30pm yesterday. A man travelling in the car died at the scene while a 16-year-old boy was taken to Nepean Hospital with back and neck injuries. Investigators are trying to establish what led to the crash, but traffic diversions in the area have been lifted. (AAP)

7.37am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A US woman has been forced to hand back a Renoir painting she found at a flea market. Nice, what a find! But handing it over must have HURT!

7.35am If you missed this yarn over the weekend, you should really read it - a great piece on the region's surfing culture by Merc reporter Josh Butler.

7.33am Have you been snapped out and about in the Illawarra? Check out our gallery of social snapsyou never know who you might see!

7.31am NATIONAL NEWS: The bushfire crisis in WA has worsened. A 62-year-old Hovea man has reportedly died, after he lost consciousness on the roof of his house while defending it from a bushfire, and 27 homes have been destroyed in the Perth hills

7.28am SPORT: Samantha Stosur embarks on tennis’ version of Mission: Impossible today when the local hope launches her Australian Open campaign at Melbourne Park.

7.25am Because it's Golden Globes day and because I love dresses, here's a gallery of the 20 most iconic dresses from the movies. Oh sigh. I'll be gazing lovingly at the dresses if anyone needs me.

7.23am LOCAL NEWS: Check out the latest in our series on saltwater sanctuaries here. Today we've got a yarn on Wombarra Rockpool. Looks beautiful!

7.21am Don't forget we're doing regular crosses with the gang at Pulse 94.1FM. Tune in for all the latest news headlines from the Rush.

7.18am Got travel plans for 2014? Here's some inspiration if you haven't booked your trip yet - see what's hot in travel this year. Also love the list of travel regrets from years gone by - arrr the open bathroom ... because everyone wants to shower in front of others!

7.16am CELEB NEWS: Justin Bieber fans, I'm sorry.  Justin Bieber's manager says he's forcing the star to take a year off. Non-Bieber fans, rejoice!

7.14am We're on the hunt for old pics of families holidaying on the South Coast. Can you help?

7.12am BREAKING: A man who allegedly stabbed a man in the face during an argument in NSW’s north will face court charged with malicious wounding. Police said the argument between the men, aged 55 and 32, occurred outside a home on Batar Creek Road at Kendall about 11pm on Saturday. Police allege the younger man slashed the 55-year-old across the face with a knife in the dispute. The injured man was taken to Port Macquarie Hospital and has since been released. The 32-year-old has been charged with malicious wounding with intent and being armed with intent. He’ll face Kempsey Local Court today. (AAP)

7.10am The Botanic Gardens is the place to be today if you're looking for a fun school holiday activity. The Gardens is hosting Captain Compost and the Chocolate Explorers, allowing kids to learn all about how chocolate was originally used and how they can use it today. Activities include a chocolate lovers treasure hunt and waste wise pirate crafts. Cost: $9 per child; family package (2 or more children) $17. Sausage sizzle sandwiches and cool drinks will be available for purchase.

7.08am LOCAL SPORT: Corrimal finished unbeaten and Helensburgh snatched a semi-final spot at the expense of Balgownie following the double-header finish to the Illawarra Twenty20 competition on Saturday.

7.06am Love this shot - how many dog owners can relate?!

7.03am Does anyone have any cure-alls for a cold? I have been battling this sucker of a cold for days and I can't get rid of it!! I'm convinced I have a strain of "air-conditioning flu" brought on by sitting in freezing cold air-con. Thoughts?

7.01am BREAKING: A 19-year-old man is in a critical condition after a high-speed car crash in south-east Sydney. The man connected with a pole at high-speed on a main road in the suburb of Botany, about 10 kilometres south-east of the Sydney CBD, at about 7 pm.

6.59am LOCAL NEWS: Greek Orthodox Christians celebrated the Epiphany yesterday with traditional cross-throwing ceremonies around Wollongong Harbour.

6.57am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Singer Hilary Duff has split from her hubby of three years.

6.54am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*A gorgeous story on a super cute little boy - for Dane Aronsten, his first day of day care last Tuesday marked the start of catching up on a childhood interrupted by heart and digestive conditions.

*A 28-year-old woman was accosted by a man while walking along the pathway through Puckeys Estate yesterday. The incident occurred at about 5pm on Sunday, according to a witness on Fairy Creek bridge who called police on his mobile phone after the woman ran from the bush

*A private main was responsible for a sewage leak into Belmore Basin on Saturday, Sydney Water has confirmed.

*The NSW government funding increase for roads maintenance in the Illawarra is the lowest of seven key regions, while the Hunter’s allocation almost doubled.

6.52am Good morning Illawarra! Hope you had a fab weekend. Here's the latest weather, traffic and trains for your morning.

WEATHER We're headed for a partly cloudy day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds and fire danger is high. Right now, it's 18 degrees in Bellambi and 13 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay on the region's roads, just watch out for those road works at Gerringong. The roads look clear for the run to Sydney & if you're heading south.

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

6.50am SPORT: Bernard Tomic is set to take on Rafael Nadal in the Aus Open final on Tuesday night. Should be a really good match!

6.48am The Illawarra Folk Festival starts this week - we'll have all the details later in the week.

6.46am In need of something fresh to do with the kids? Why not head to Unanderra Library today for drop in craft? It's on from 10am to 4pm, bookings are essential. 

6.44am WORLD NEWS: French first lady Valerie Trierweiler has been admitted to hospital following reports of an affair between President Francois Hollande and an actress, but will be discharged on Monday, sources said on Sunday.

6.42am What did you get up to over the weekend? I took a little mini-break to Newcastle - what a cool city! Awesome eats and shopping on Darby St and gorgeous beaches. Loved it!

6.40am 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!

6.38am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: Just when the US thought it had seen enough extreme weather, the country has now been hit with deadly flash-flooding. The crazy weather has already claimed 2 lives. (Nine News)

6.37am A collision that left a cyclist with serious injuries in Sydney's south on Saturday came as an OECD report showed Australia and Canada were the only two of its 27 member countries to have had an increase in cyclist deaths between 2010 and 2011.

6.33am SPORT: And in sport news, we smashed the Poms yet again in the cricket yesterday. The Aussies absolutely whopped the Brits in yesterday's one-day inernational.

6.31am It's Golden Globes today! We will (hopefully!) have some updates during the Rush this morning - can't wait to play dresses, yay!

6.30am Looking for something to do with the kids today? Beaton Park has pool inflatables! $5.40 per child, from 1-3pm.

6.29am NATIONAL NEWS: The death of Daniel Christie has prompted a massive outpouring of support on social media. Just 24 hours after an emotional statement penned by his family was posted on the NSW Police Force Facebook page, it had been ''liked'' by about 30,000 people and attracted close to 5500 comments.

6.27am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Lawrence Hargrave Drive from Bald Hill to Stanwell Tops until Wednesday for essential maintenance work. To minimise traffic disruptions, the work will be carried out at night, between 7pm and 5am, weather permitting. Longview Crescent at Lawrence Hargrave Drive will be temporarily closed and traffic will be detoured via Stonehaven Road.

6.25am LOCAL NEWS: In the past 12 months, North Wollongong tradie Michael Fittler became known for his big, bushy beard and was always recognised on his daily jog or at the pub. But now, thanks to the handy work of some clippers and a razor, it’s back to being an anonymous barefaced 24-year-old guy.

6.23am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Are Charlize Theron and Sean Penn dating? It would appear so - the pair enjoyed a PDA-fest at a charity gala over the weekend.

6.21am Temperatures are set to top 40 degrees in many parts of NSW this week. Towns beyond the Great Dividing Range are likely to experience extreme heat as early as Monday. Respite from the heat won't be felt until Saturday, when there will be a cooler southerly change

6.18am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Doctors have pulled a large cockroach out of a Darwin man's ear.

6.16am LOCAL NEWS: The Illawarra is getting another small bar (yippee!) - and this one is a bar/bakery/coffee shop. Three Chimneys opens next month. Check it out here.

6.14am BREAKING: Police have serious concerns about the safety of a father and daughter who have gone missing on the NSW north coast. Greg Hutchings, 35, and his daughter, four-year-old Eeva Dorendahl, were due to meet family in Pottsville about midday on Saturday, but never showed. Read more here.

6.12am LOCAL SPORT: Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod likened the NBL’s weekly battles to a children’s board game, but was one proud man after Saturday night’s 82-79 road win over Cairns.

6.10am WORLD NEWS: Charles Saatchi has launched a new character assassination on his former wife Nigella Lawson. In the latest twist in the saga, Saatchi attacked Nigella Lawson's parenting skills after she admitted in a recent court case to taking drugs in front of her child.

6.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson has married for the fourth time - but her new husband is not so new. She remarried her ex-husband Rick Salomon.

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

*The George Street entertainment precinct is shaping as the next target of a liquor licensing crackdown as assault rates in central Sydney defy a state-wide downward trend.

*More than 60 per cent of Sydney’s train cleaners have asked for redundancy, triggering concerns about how well trains will be cleaned in future and highlighting a beaten-down workplace culture.

*The Royal Botanic Gardens is set to host new restaurants, cafes and other commercial activities under an amalgamation with the Centennial Parklands that will mean an estimated 30 to 40 jobs lost.

*Leading public health experts warn that higher prices for alcohol will do little to curb high-intensity drinking because binge drinkers commonly drink little or nothing on some days so they can binge on the weekend.

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

*A gorgeous story on a super cute little boy - for Dane Aronsten, his first day of day care last Tuesday marked the start of catching up on a childhood interrupted by heart and digestive conditions.

*A 28-year-old woman was accosted by a man while walking along the pathway through Puckeys Estate yesterday. The incident occurred at about 5pm on Sunday, according to a witness on Fairy Creek bridge who called police on his mobile phone after the woman ran from the bush

*A private main was responsible for a sewage leak into Belmore Basin on Saturday, Sydney Water has confirmed.

*The NSW government funding increase for roads maintenance in the Illawarra is the lowest of seven key regions, while the Hunter’s allocation almost doubled.

6.02am If you're just rolling out of bed ... jump back in and go back to sleep! Or, check out the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER We're headed for a partly cloudy day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds and fire danger is high. Right now, it's 18 degrees in Bellambi and 13 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay on the region's roads, just watch out for those road works at Gerringong. The roads look clear for the run to Sydney & if you're heading south.

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

6am Good morning! It's Monday - back to work :( Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, gorgeous weather for it. Stay with us this morning for all the latest news and goss!

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