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

8.45am That's it from us this morning, hope you enjoyed the Rush! Get out and take advantage of this gorgeous sunny day, I am so jealous! Ta ta for now.

8.43am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Corrimal Street in Wollongong tomorrow between 7pm and 5am. During work, 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.

8.40am Head over to the Botanic Gardens today for a trip with Captain Compost and the Chocolate Explorers. Join the sea-faring pirates on a quest to unveil the discovery of chocolate before Captain Compost shows kids how they can turn uneaten holiday food into valuable compost for the garden. It’s on until Friday from 10am to 1.30pm. Suitable for ages 3-12. Cost: $9 per child; family package (2 or more children) $17. Sausage sizzle and cool drinks available for purchase.

8.37am LOCAL NEWS: If you're an Illawarra bloke aged between 10 and 55, you may get a knock on your front door sometime over the next few weeks inviting you to join a landmark health study. The new research, called Ten to Men, is the first large-scale ongoing study in Australia into the health and well-being of the nation's men and boys. Conducted by the University of Melbourne, researchers are collecting data on male health including general well-being, lifestyle, mental health, diet, exercise, social networks and relationships.

8.34am SPORT - AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Lleyton Hewitt departed the Australian Open at the first-round stage for the second successive year. In brutal conditions, Hewitt held a match point, but lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 to Italian Andreas Seppi. (SMH)

8.31am A little bit of history for your Wednesday - today in 1976, the first episode of the Australian drama series "The Sullivans" was broadcast.

8.28am STRANGE BUT TRUE: You can now buy battle armor for your cat. I have a lot of questions - mainly, why would a cat need armor?

8.26am Why not take the kids along to try out spinning and balancing at Futureworld today? Suitable for ages 6 - 14, cost: $10 per child for the session. Time: 10am - 12 noon. Limited spaces available, bookings essential.

8.23am WORLD NEWS: A Christchurch man heading to Auckland for his mother's funeral says he was "red-flagged" by Jetstar. Glenn Reeves attempted to check in on Sunday for his Jetstar flight to Auckland 10 minutes after the airline's strict check-in deadline and was turned away. He snatched his itinerary from an airline employee and left the airport "distraught".

8.20am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A tortoise has beaten a rabbit in a skiing competition held for pets and their owners in northern China. In an unexpected outcome akin to an ancient Greek fable, a tortoise beat a rabbit, with the shelled reptile claiming third place overall, the report said. (AFP)

8.17am SPORT - cricket: So often beaten, so often battered, so often belittled, Sydney Thunder has finally - and emphatically - achieved what so many were convinced was an unreachable goal: winning a Big Bash League match.

8.14am LOCAL NEWS: Young skateboarders will be introduced to "skate park tourism" during Shellharbour City Council's Skate Park Crawl on Thursday. They will travel to several of Sydney's popular skate parks, including Bondi, Maroubra and Dulwich Hill parks.

8.12am If you've got budding fishermen (or women!) in the family, head to Lake Illawarra today for a children’s fishing workshop.

8.10am A great-grandmother from Evans Head can now call herself a millionaire after she won division one in last week’s Wednesday Lotto draw. Lucky lady!

8.08am MOVIE NEWS: Oscar nominations are due this Thursday. What are your predictions? I'd say our Cate is in with a good chance!

8.04am THEATRE: Australian actor-comedian Tim Minchin is planning to create a musical adaptation of the 1993 film Groundhog Day. Matthew Warchus (Simpatico) will direct while Minchin will write the music and lyrics, according to the comedian’s blog. Danny Rubin, who wrote the original script for the film, will also work on the musical. (SMH)

8.02am Kids say the darnest things, right?! I love these brutally honest letters from children - there are some absolute crackers in here!

8am SPORT: NBA star Andrew Bogut has questioned Basketball Australia's (BA) decision to grant chief executive Kristina Keneally six months' personal leave barely a year-and-a-half into her tenure. BA on Monday confirmed Keneally had taken a leave of absence from January 1 to June 30 to deal with a private matter. The former NSW premier has held the position since June 2012 and recently oversaw the organisation's de-merger from the National Basketball League.

7.58am The National Liturgy Conference, marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, kicks off today. Over 500 people have already registered for the conference at the Xavier Conference Centre (behind St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral) as well as St Mary Star of the Sea College.

7.56am BREAKING CELEB GOSS: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has raided the home of pop star Justin Bieber. Officers executed a search warrant on Bieber's home in LA's plush Calabasas neighbourhood. But in a footnote you could only read about in Hollywood, they actually went in looking for eggs and came out after they discovered drugs. 

7.54am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Illegal dumping spiked in Wollongong over the festive season as residents looked for a quick fix to get rid of unwanted junk. Dumping incidents almost doubled with rangers investigating 123 cases, compared with 63 the previous quarter.

*A recent surge in visitors to Wollongong City Gallery is thanks to a renewed focus on interactive exhibits, according to director John Monteleone. The gallery welcomed almost twice the number of visitors through its doors in 2013 as the previous year.

*Wollongong police have warned residents not to leave dogs locked in cars as the Illawarra endures a string of hot days. Yesterday, the Mercury came across one sad-looking pooch sitting in the passenger seat with only a small gap left in the window for air.

*The new station being built north of Dunmore suffered the latest in its long-running series of identity crises yesterday, with an announcement it can no longer be known as Shell Cove.

7.51am Good morning and happy Wednesday if you've just joined us! Let's have a little looksey-peak at the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER It's going to be a PERFECT beach day! Yay! Sunny with a top of 28 degrees. Spare a thought for those in Adelaide & Melbourne today, where it's set to hit 45 degrees - that is just wrong. Back to the Gong, fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme so make sure you slip, slop & slap. Right now it's 18 in Albion Park and 21 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC There is a truck breakdown at Mt Ousley (near New Mt Pleasant Rd) - one northbound lane is closed and delays are expected. There is an accident at Mascot (O'Riordan St & Bourke Rd) - just be careful around there too!

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

7.49am Kids' Uni director Debbie Foster has found a solution to the difficult problem of keeping 75 children entertained during the holidays - a giant waterslide. To the squealing delight of children attending vacation care, the water ride appeared on the grounds of the Fairy Meadow Kids' Uni centre yesterday. NB They look like they had a BALL!

7.47am CELEB GOSS ALERT: The Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week. Get all the goss right here (or below, whatever)

7.45am NATIONAL NEWS: Sydney entrepreneur Casey Kinnaird has died three days after she was gravely injured in a cycling incident south of Sydney. The 35-year-old was riding along McKell Avenue at Waterfall when she was involved in a collision with a car travelling in the opposite direction about 7.15am on Saturday. Ms Kinnaird ran her own financial services company, Bespoke Advisory Services. She was also an active member of the Extraordinary Women, an organisation that connects females who run their own companies with other ambitious women.

7.43am MUSIC NEWS: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are set to perform at the Grammys.

7.42am LOCAL SPORT: Boutique Meroo Meadow stud Bell View Park will again have a couple of early-running types aimed at the two-year-old riches next season under Gai Waterhouse's care. The South Coast breeding establishment cleared four of their five lots offered at the Magic Millions sales, with Waterhouse snapping up Bell View Park's first foal from Group 1 winner Russeting.

7.40am Desperate to send the kids to the circus? Well, if there isn't one nearby, there is a juggling workshop with Circus Monoxide today at Warrawong Library at 10.30am. Bookings essential. Cost: $4per child, max. 16 children per workshop.

7.38am BREAKING: Lightning strikes have started more than 250 new fires across Victoria, as the state faces another day of extreme weather conditions. Three emergency warnings were issued on Tuesday as the state sweltered through temperatures of up to 46C. The night didn’t bring good news, with lightning strikes in northwestern and central Victoria starting 256 new fires. Victoria’s Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said crews were assessing the blazes. A total fire ban has been issued for the entire state for Wednesday. (AAP)

7.36am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Ladies & gents, meet the woman who married the Eiffel Tower. I kid you not. She even took its name.

7.34am FOOD: Redfern’s gentrification and escalation in rental prices has fixated the media in recent weeks, but it is the suburb’s simmering food scene that is really set to boil. Read all about it here.

7.32am Want to check out our Hawks take on the Taipans on Jan 26?We’re giving away family passes.

7.30am LOCAL NEWS: A man was placed in a neck brace and stretchered into an ambulance after the truck he was driving overturned and spilt a large amount of coal over Masters Road, Spring Hill, on Tuesday. NB Traffic was affected in the area for HOURS. Did you get stuck?

7.28am SPORT - Australian Open: Peeps, it's just too hot in Melbourne - there's players hallucinating! Yep, Canadian Frank Dancevic knew he was in trouble when he saw Snoopy. ''I was starting to hallucinate a bit towards the end of the first set.'' A few games later things got serious. The 29-year-old veteran of 12 years on the tennis tour felt dizzy, leaned against the court six fence, and came to with a doctor hovering over him. Dancevic thought he'd been out for 20 seconds, but was told it was closer to a minute.

7.26am Who doesn't want to stand in a sea of beautiful butterflies? Come along and see live butterflies up close at Oak Flats Library today from 10:30am - 1:30pm. Children can enter the butterfly house for a few minutes, enjoy interacting with butterflies and learn all about butterflies. Bookings are essential and children must be accompanied by an adult.

7.24am TRAFFIC ALERT - Mount Pleasant: M1 Princes Motorway (Mount Ousley Road) near New Mount Pleasant Road: Breakdown - Semi trailer. Be careful!

7.22am Don't forget we're crossing to Pulse 94.1FM every hour with all the latest news from the Rush.

7.18am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kanye's in trouble again. Reports came through yesterday of him assaulting a man who yelled racial slurs at his fiancee & baby mama Kim Kardashian. Oh Kanye.

7.16am TV NEWS: Seinfeld fans rejoice! Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, and Larry David have been spotted together at the iconic Tom's Restaurant in New York, as made famous by the classic '90s sitcom. Could a reunion be on the cards?

7.14am LOCAL SPORT: A heartbreaking final day Twenty20 loss to Queensland has cost NSW Country the chance to take honours at the national championships in Canberra.

7.12am GOLDEN GLOBES: Yep, we're still talking about the awards. E! has issued a swift apology for its gaffe, which saw the network post a ‘‘fun fact’’ about Michael J Fox’s Parkinson’s diagnosis during its Golden Globe coverage. Oops.

7.10am Kids whining about the hot weather? Take them to Beaton Park today to escape the heat - they have inflatables! $5.40 per child, 1-3pm.

7.08am If you're a shopping devoutee, you will love this story on the world's biggest shopping mall, located in Dubai. You literally need a buggy to get round it. Love!

7.04am LOCAL NEWS: Killalea State Park's overgrown lagoon is to get a facelift, courtesy of a new volunteer group that will get down and dirty to clean up the popular spot. The Friends of Killalea State Park have their shovels poised to give the run-down site a much-needed makeover, preparing to meet monthly to clean up the location.

7.02am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Yet another reason to love Queen B. She has written an essay on gender equality - no biggie.

7am BREAKING: The funeral for Daniel Christie, who died after being punched in Kings Cross, will be held in Sydney’s northwest on Friday. The 18-year-old was attacked on New year’s Eve and died in hospital on the weekend. Shaun McNeil, 25, is accused of murdering Mr Christie by punching him in an unprovoked attack. Police say a public funeral for Mr Christie will be held at the Hillsong Church Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills at 10am on Friday. (AAP)

6.58am Is your child a budding jewellery designer? Then indulge their creative side at the Wollongong Art Gallery today for a jewellery making workshop. 10am – 3pm. Suitable for ages 9–14. Students must bring their own recess and lunch.

6.56am WORLD NEWS: French President Francois Hollande says his "indignation is total" over a tabloid report that he is having a secret affair, saying it violates his privacy.

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

*Illegal dumping spiked in Wollongong over the festive season as residents looked for a quick fix to get rid of unwanted junk. Dumping incidents almost doubled with rangers investigating 123 cases, compared with 63 the previous quarter.

*A recent surge in visitors to Wollongong City Gallery is thanks to a renewed focus on interactive exhibits, according to director John Monteleone. The gallery welcomed almost twice the number of visitors through its doors in 2013 as the previous year.

*Wollongong police have warned residents not to leave dogs locked in cars as the Illawarra endures a string of hot days. Yesterday, the Mercury came across one sad-looking pooch sitting in the passenger seat with only a small gap left in the window for air.

*The new station being built north of Dunmore suffered the latest in its long-running series of identity crises yesterday, with an announcement it can no longer be known as Shell Cove.

6.52am Good morning and happy Wednesday if you've just joined us! Let's have a little looksey-peak at the latest weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER It's going to be a PERFECT beach day! Yay! Sunny with a top of 28 degrees. Spare a thought for those in Adelaide & Melbourne today, where it's set to hit 45 degrees - that is just wrong. Back to the Gong, fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme so make sure you slip, slop & slap. Right now it's 15 in Albion Park and 20 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks okay for the run around town - don't forget the roadworks at Gerringong. All is clear for the run to Sydney & south to Nowra.

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

6.50am It's Dress Up Your Pet day! Rejoice! Who doesn't love a dog/cat/fish dressed up in a highly humorous costume!

6.48am MUSIC NEWS: Christine McVie will rejoin Fleetwood Macafter retiring from the band 15 years ago. The news was confirmed by founder Mick Fleetwood who made the announcement at a show in Hawaii.

6.46am NATIONAL NEWS: Delays at Sydney Airport yesterday afternoon have been blamed on Qantas staff accidentally letting unscreened passengers off a flight from country NSW into the main terminal. The security breach about 2pm forced the evacuation of hundreds of passengers, staff and shopkeepers from Terminal 3, so they could be re-screened at the security gate. Passengers off a QantasLink flight from Armidale were incorrectly told to exit the airport through the main terminal, when they should have been directed to a separate exit, a Qantas spokeswoman said.

6.44am LOCAL NEWS: We've got the latest in our "saltwater sanctuaries" series right here - this time, reporter Ang Thompson checked out Bellambi rock pool.

6.42am Dying to see a flick at the Sunset Cinema? Well, why not try and win some tickets! We’re giving away double passes to the movie of your choice. Enter here.

6.40am MUSIC NEWS: A Sydney woman behind an online petition to have Snoop Lion's (aka Snoop Dogg's) Australian visa revoked is the same woman who also attempted to have other controversial musicians, Tyler the Creator and Robin Thicke, thrown out of the country last year. NB A really interesting story, read more here.

6.38am Okay, so I know it's not a funny picture of a dog or cat (I know, I'm sorry!) BUT check out this ADORABLE mini-goat. OMG I'm dying. The cuteness. I can't handle it.

6.36am WORLD NEWS: Two teenagers are in a critical condition and a 13-year-old is reportedly in custody after a shooting at a US middle school in Roswell, New Mexico. (Nine News)

6.34am TV NEWS: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane said the creative team behind Fox’s animated hit were shocked by fan reaction to (temporarily) killing off Brian earlier this season. “It surprised all of us,” the writer-producer-actor said. “We were all very surprised, in a good way, that people still cared enough about that character to be that angry. We thought it would create a little bit of a stir, but the rage wasn’t something we counted on.”

6.32am Don't have kids? Don't fret - according to one of the biggest studies ever conducted into Britain’s relationships, childless couples have happier marriages. The project has found that people without children are more satisfied with their relationships and more likely to feel valued by their partner than couples with children.

6.30am Do you have a Monet-in-the-making in your family? Then head over to Towradgi Beach Hotel for the Little Leonardo Art Classes. They will run weekdays until January 24. Spaces are limited so please call to ensure your child’s place. Classes are perfect for five to 12 year-olds, and are only $12 per child.

6.28am NATIONAL NEWS: The heat wave across the country continues - and Sydneysiders are about to get a taste. Deniliquin in the Riverina notched up a blistering 44.3 degrees on Tuesday - one of the state's hottest - and there are three more days of such extreme weather to come as the nation's second big heatwave for 2014 drifts east towards Sydney.

6.26am TV NEWS: Sex and the City fans, keep those fingers crossed for more films! Kim Cattrall has announced she would do another movie. Oh let it be true!!!

6.24am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Lawrence Hargrave Drive from Bald Hill to Stanwell Tops until tonight for essential maintenance work. Longview Crescent at Lawrence Hargrave Drive will be temporarily closed and traffic will be detoured via Stonehaven Road from 7pm to 5am.

6.22am WORLD NEWS: Rolf Harris has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of sexual assault against four girls, one aged as young as seven. He appeared on Tuesday at Southwark Crown Court before Mr Justice Sweeney, where details of the charges against him were heard for the first time. Read more here.

6.20am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong City Council has finally started repairing Mount Keira Road, but is still $1.2 million short to complete the stabilisation project on the tourist drive.

6.18am CELEB GOSS ALERT: It’s official: Sean Penn, 53, and Charlize Theron, 38, are dating. Penn and Theron were spotted together in Hawaii over the Christmas break, and made their relationship public the night before the Golden Globes. (Mamamia)

6.16am SPORT - AUSTRALIAN OPEN: It took just a few points for the first grimace and grab for his groin. It took only three games for Bernard Tomic to leave the court. It took only 41 minutes for Tomic's Australian Open to be over amid the hoots of the local crowd.

6.14am Disney is coming to Wollongong today! Disney Live presents Mickey’s Magic Show @ the WEC today. Tickets still available, don't miss out.

6.12am LOCAL SPORT: Wollongong football fans will again miss out on W-League action at WIN Stadium after Sunday's fixture between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar was relocated due to problems with the playing surface.

6.10am WORLD NEWS: If you missed this story yesterday...Hillary and Bill Clinton keep a detailed "hit list" of everyone who has crossed them during more than 20 years at the apex of American politics, a new book has claimed. The list of so-called "sinners and saints" - including John Kerry, now secretary of state, and the late Ted Kennedy - was compiled on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in the dying days of Mrs Clinton’s failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

6.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Justin Bieber had a very bad day yesterday - his house got raided by the LAPD. Oh dear.

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

*The author of Australia's largest study into alcohol-related nightlife crime has blasted Premier Barry O'Farrell for ''unbelievably stupid'' comments that 1am lockouts would do little to prevent 9pm assaults.

*A multiculturalism expert says young Australians are being brainwashed to go to the Syria war.

*The Greens have called for the end of the church prayer in federal parliament.

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

*Illegal dumping spiked in Wollongong over the festive season as residents looked for a quick fix to get rid of unwanted junk. Dumping incidents almost doubled with rangers investigating 123 cases, compared with 63 the previous quarter.

*A recent surge in visitors to Wollongong City Gallery is thanks to a renewed focus on interactive exhibits, according to director John Monteleone. The gallery welcomed almost twice the number of visitors through its doors in 2013 as the previous year.

*Wollongong police have warned residents not to leave dogs locked in cars as the Illawarra endures a string of hot days. Yesterday, the Mercury came across one sad-looking pooch sitting in the passenger seat with only a small gap left in the window for air.

*The new station being built north of Dunmore suffered the latest in its long-running series of identity crises yesterday, with an announcement it can no longer be known as Shell Cove.

6.02am Let's have a little looksey-peak at the latest weather, traffic and trains for your Wednesday.

WEATHER It's going to be a PERFECT beach day! Yay! Sunny with a top of 28 degrees. Spare a thought for those in Adelaide & Melbourne today, where it's set to hit 45 degrees. That is just wrong. Back to the Gong, fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme so make sure you slip, slop & slap. Right now it's 15 in Albion Park and 21 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks okay for the run around town - don't forget the roadworks at Gerringong. All is clear for the run to Sydney & south to Nowra.

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

6am Good morning! Happy hump day! Hope you're having a good working week (if you're working) and enjoying your break if you're still on holidays (lucky bugger!). Stay with us this morning for all the latest news.

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