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

8.46am That's it from us this morning! Have a wonderful weekend - don't forget the South Coast Showdown is on at Kiama tomorrow. We're sponsoring this great event, head to Black Beach to see some gorgeous classic cars!

8.43am WORLD NEWS: United Nations child protection experts have pushed Vatican delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests that Pope Francis called "the shame of the Church". The delegates, answering questions from an international rights panel for the first time since the scandals broke more than two decades ago, denied allegations of a Vatican cover-up and said it had set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.

8.41am There are a couple of cool live music gigs on over the weekend - don't miss The Funkoars with Mr Hill and Rahjconkas @ the TBH tonight (tickets available from Moshtix) or the Elvis & Johnny Cash show @ the Oaks Hotel tomorrow night from 8pm.

8.39am I love this story out of the US yesterday - Apple has agreed to refund at least $US32.5 million ($36.5 million) to US customers for children's purchases from its App Store without parental consent, regulators say. Ha!

8.36am MUSIC NEWS: Big Day Out Perth organisers say they have been forced to move the music festival to Arena Joondalup just weeks before the event after a long-running spat with Claremont Council. Chief executive officer Adam Zammit said decades of fighting with the Town of Claremont and last minute noise-monitoring conditions had forced organisers to relocate north.

8.33am NATIONAL NEWS: The father of "coward punch" victim Michael McEwen has written an absolutely amazing piece, calling for premier Barry O'Farrell to take action on alcohol-fuelled violence. Read it here.

8.30am Don't miss the chance to return to the roaring '20s tomorrow night when the Great Gatsby screens at the Sunset Cinema.

8.25am TV NEWS: Downton Abbey's fourth season is shaping up to be its most ambitious, judging by the reactions in the United Kingdom and the United States. And Australian viewers are in for the same rude shock, as one of its darkest storylines is due to unfold by the start of February. Spoiler alert: After only one episode, Downton will introduce a predator into its mix of new and old characters and rock the very core of this almost sugar-coated portrayal of Britain's class dynamic of the early 20th century.

8.23am The Illawarra Folk Festival continues today & over the weekend. There is a great line-up of music, don't miss it. For those heading along, don't forget to be sun safe - it's going to be hot out there!

8.21am Don't forget we're crossing hourly to Pulse 94.1FM with all the latest news from the Rush. Tune in!

8.17am Our entertainment reporter Josh Butler has kicked off his weekly live music round-up. Nice! Check it out here.

8.14am Today is the last day to head over to the Botanic Gardens 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 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.

8.12am SPORT - Australian Open: Forget her Hopman Cup flop and her hacking in Hobart, Samantha Stosur says she is peaking nicely as she eyes a spot in the second week of the Australian Open. After burying her Hobart conqueror Klara Zakopalova in the first match and dispatching the Sydney International champion Tsvetana Pironkova in her second, Stosur faces Auckland Classic winner Ana Ivanovic tonight for a shot at Serena Williams in the last 16. (SMH)

8.08am LOCAL NEWS: The NSW government will spend $745,000 on improvements to Appin Road in the first half of 2014. The road has been an accident black spot in recent years, with a number of crashes and fatalities.

8.06am Celtic Women played at the WEC last night - and by all accounts, the show was amazing! Hope all who went had a great time.

8.05am Bring the kids along to Unanderra Library today to play with lego. It's on from 10.30am. Bookings essential.

8.03am NATIONAL NEWS: A Gold Coast reptile handler who was admitted to hospital after being bitten by his venomous pet snake says suggestions he is reckless are untrue. Tony Harrison said allegations he had been playing with the dangerous rough-scaled snake - made by a rival Victorian handler on social media - were false and could damage the reputation of his business.

8.01am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Okay, so I've always had a thing for Harry Connick Jr - but apparently, now the rest of the world does too! He's the new host on American Idol - and people are totally jumping on the Connick bandwagon. I loved him first!

7.58am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Passers-by had to rescue a toddler from a burning home in North Nowra on Thursday after she had been left on her own in the house before the blaze broke out, police said.

*A 13-year-old boy had to be dragged to shore after accidentally firing a speargun into his leg at Towradgi Beach yesterday.

*A 10-metre trawler was ‘‘five minutes from sinking’’ in Wollongong Harbour on Thursday night before firefighters came to the rescue.

*NSW Police have been ordered to pay a $7500 legal bill after wrongly accusing a Picton man of abusing turkeys at Inghams' Tahmoor processing plant.

7.56am Hello! TGIF! Let's have a look at the weather, traffic and trains as they stand right now.

WEATHER It's going to be another sunny day, yay! We're headed for a top of 27 degrees, gorgeous. Fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme. Tomorrow is going to be very warm and sunny with a predicted top of 29 while a few showers and a top of 24 is expected for Sunday. Right now, it's 18 in Albion Park and 21 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around town and for the run to Sydney. Don't forget traffic could be busy around Bulli today due to the Illawarra Folk Festival & in the Royal National Park as people head that way to escape the heat. Take it easy!

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

6am Good morning, TGIF! Yep, we made it to the end of the week, yippee! Stay with us this morning for all the latest news as it comes to hand.

7.53am This Sunday is shaping up to be a huge day 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!

7.50am Summer is the perfect time of year to indulge your green thumb - but what if you don't have a very big backyard? Fret not, oh would-be gardener - the SMH has some great tips for creating gardens in teeny tiny spaces right here.

7.48am BREAKING: Broadcaster Derryn Hinch says he will go to jail instead of paying a $100,000 fine for contempt of court. Hinch, 69, was ordered to pay the fine - or face 50 days in jail - after breaching a suppression order about Melbourne woman Jill Meagher's killer. Hinch was found guilty of contempt for breaching a suppression order made by Victorian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle. (The Age)

7.45am If you're shopping in the Crown St Mall today, enjoy the fairy floss stand, face painting & petting zoo. Cool!

7.43am STRANGE BUT TRUE: This one comes courtesy of our reporter Josh Butler - he's just tweeted that US candy company Hersheys is creating a 3D chocolate printer. Oh dear god, no. There goes my bride diet!

7.41am LOCAL NEWS: Pope Francis was profoundly committed to Vatican II's vision of putting the church at the service of the world, the Pope's Ambassador to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said in Wollongong yesterday. The Archbishop was attending a national four-day conference in Wollongong on Catholic liturgy, 50 years after Vatican II's major reforms. More than 600 Catholics gathered at St Mary Star of the Sea and St Francis Xavier Cathedral to explore the role of music in Mass and the liturgy's many changes over the years.

7.39am WORLD NEWS: An Ohio inmate condemned to die appeared to gasp several times during his prolonged execution yesterday with the first use of a lethal injection process never before tried in the US. Read more here.

7.38am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Anne Hathaway’s "creative differences" with director David O. Russell cost her Jennifer Lawrence’s role in Silver Linings Playbook. Ouch! At least they both won Oscars last year. (US Magazine)

7.36am Speaking of sport, want to check out our Hawks take on the Taipans on Australia Day? We’re giving away family passes. Gee we're generous!

7.34am SPORT - cricket: Ryan Harris will put country before cash, skipping the Indian Premier League auction to instead have knee surgery and stretch out his late-blooming Test career as far as he can.

7.32am The Illawarra Youth Arts Project is set to present its 2014 launch at the Wollongong Town Hall tomorrow night. The launch will feature performances from some of the Illawarra’s most outstanding young singers, songwriters, actors, dancers, bands and writers, as well as artworks for sale by local young artists. Tickets $10, available online or at the door. Doors open at 7pm, show starts 7.30pm. Read all about it here.

7.30am Our favourite baker Kate Shepherd has been in the kitchen again. This time, she's whipped up a one-bowl gluten-free chocolate cake. Yum, drooling. I hope she brings it into the office! Check out her recipe below. Please don't lick your screen!

7.28am MUSIC NEWS: Have you heard the rumours AC/DC could be heading out on a 40th Anniversary tour? Head over to Ticketek to join the wait-list.

7.26am NATIONAL: The peak-hour train that derailed at Edgecliff was emitting burning smells at least half an hour before it left the tracks, Sydney Trains employees, commuters and the union said. But the train was allowed to continue on its journey, which would eventually end with a steel bar pushing through the floor of the third carriage. Yikes. Scary!

7.24am LOCAL NEWS: Kiama has named its citizen of the year - and he's more than deserving. Read all about winner Warren Turner here.

7.22am TV NEWS: How I Met Your Mother co-creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have apologised on Twitter after the latest episode of the hit sitcom was accused of racism. The show which aired on CBS in the US on Monday night, faced a social media backlash after it depicted several of its title characters in what viewers are dubbing "yellowface".

7.20am Speaking of local sport, The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content!

7.18am LOCAL SPORT: A derby winner and a 60-minute stint in Melbourne has brought Illawarra-born Wanderer Brendon Santalab no closer to cementing his spot in the Western Sydney line-up.

7.17am Kiama Rotary's annual antique show kicks off @ Kiama Leisure Centre tonight. The fair will open with a gala reception and preview from 6.30pm. Admission is at the door and the entry fee includes light refreshments and wine. The fair will be open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and from 10am to 4pm on Sunday.

7.14am (KIND OF) CELEB GOSS ALERT: Oh Shane Warne, put it away. He's posted a pic of his abs on Instagram. Sigh.

7.12am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Is it a plane? Well, it steers like one. Is it a boat? Legally, yes. Is it a submarine? Kind of ... and then it leaps out of the water and breaches just like a whale. The Seabreacher could be described as a fast-planing raceboat, or alternately as a fully sealed jet-ski-engined sea missile that can plunge two people under the water at 60km/h and then hurl them into the sky. (SMH)

7.11am And the bad news is ... the heatwave is expected to continue in most parts of the country until at least Monday. Ouch. We're thinking of those in Adelaide & parts of Victoria who are sweltering.

7.08am BREAKING - BUSHFIRE CRISIS: Four emergency warnings in place in Victoria. Residents told to leave now before it's too late. (Nine News)

7.07am We've got the latest in our "saltwater sanctuaries" series - this time, reporter Ben Langford checks out Austinmer ocean pool.

7.03am CELEB NEWS: A woman accused of attacking Hugh Jackman with an electric razor has been declared fit for trial after undergoing treatment at a mental health facility. Katherine Thurston was arrested and charged with fourth-degree stalking last April after approaching the Les Miserables star as he worked out in a New York gym and allegedly throwing the shaving device at him. Read more here.

7.01am The Caddyshack is set to visit Shellharbour Beach today. The Caddyshack is a successful mobile youth sexual health program, which aims to raise awareness of STIs and the importance of getting a check up.

6.59am BREAKING: The life of Daniel Christie, who died after being punched in Kings Cross, will be celebrated at a public ceremony in Sydney. 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 in the notorious Sydney nightlife precinct. A public funeral for Mr Christie will be held at the Hillsong Church Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills at 10am today. Governor-General Quentin Bryce is said to be attending the funeral as an expression of community opposition to violence on Sydney’s streets. (AAP)

6.57am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Passers-by had to rescue a toddler from a burning home in North Nowra on Thursday after she had been left on her own in the house before the blaze broke out, police said.

*A 13-year-old boy had to be dragged to shore after accidentally firing a speargun into his leg at Towradgi Beach yesterday.

*A 10-metre trawler was ‘‘five minutes from sinking’’ in Wollongong Harbour on Thursday night before firefighters came to the rescue.

*NSW Police have been ordered to pay a $7500 legal bill after wrongly accusing a Picton man of abusing turkeys at Inghams' Tahmoor processing plant.

6.55am Good morning! TGIF! If you're just waking up, hello! Let's have a look at the weather, traffic and trains as they stand right now.

WEATHER It's going to be another sunny day, yay! We're headed for a top of 27 degrees, gorgeous. Fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme. Tomorrow is going to be very warm and sunny with a predicted top of 29 while a few showers and a top of 24 is expected for Sunday. Right now, it's 16 in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around town and for the run to Sydney. Don't forget traffic could be busy around Bulli today due to the Illawarra Folk Festival & in the Royal National Park as people head that way to escape the heat. Take it easy!

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

6am Good morning, TGIF! Yep, we made it to the end of the week, yippee! Stay with us this morning for all the latest news as it comes to hand.

6.52am It's set to be a perfect night to see an outdoor film! Why not grab your popcorn and your chair & head to the sunset cinema tonight to see Grease. Don't sing too loudly along with the songs or you'll upset the other patrons!

6.50am While we're sweltering in Aus, the US & Europe are still freezing! It was so cold in Norway last weekend an entire school of herring was frozen in place. Check out this amazing pic!

6.48am SPORT - Australian Open: Almost 1000 tennis fans were treated for heat exhaustion at the Australian Open as soaring temperatures forced the suspension of nearly all matches yesterday. Tournament referee Wayne McEwen applied the extreme heat policy at Melbourne Park about 1.52pm, suspending all play on outdoor courts. Temperatures hit 43.3 degrees on day four of the grand slam and McEwen deemed the conditions unsafe for players. (SMH)

6.46am 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.

6.44am LOCAL NEWS: Oil supplier Park Petroleum has been fined $1500 and issued with a formal warning over an oil spill in Port Kembla Harbour last year. The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was asked to investigate after nearly 50 litres of marine fuel oil leaked from a pipe on the company's berth and into the harbour on September 1. EPA Illawarra branch manager Peter Bloem said yesterday that Park Petroleum staff had failed to operate a valve in the pipe correctly or to properly maintain the condition of the pipeline, contributing to the spill.

6.42am WORLD NEWS: A gunman walked into a US grocery store and fatally shot two people on Wednesday night before he was killed by police, authorities said. Police received a call about an active shooter at Martin's Super Market about 10 pm on Wednesday. The gunman used a semi-automatic handgun to shoot and kill a woman, then walked to another aisle and shot and killed another woman. (SMH)

6.40am Escape the hit today with pool inflatables at Beaton Park. $5.40 per child, lots of fun for the kids! From 1pm to 3pm.

6.38am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Former Sports Illustrated models gathered this week to celebrate the mag's 50th anniversary. Models like Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Christie Brinkley (who is turning 60 this year and looks AMAZING) turned out for the event.

6.36am Looking for a cheap lunch? Head to Alibi today for $10 lunch specials! Why not try their range of burgers & pasta? It’s on between 12pm and 2pm from Wednesday to Friday.

6.34am NATIONAL NEWS: A Blue Mountains mother has been charged after she allegedly left her three-year-old daughter in the back of her car while she went shopping. Police were forced to smash the rear window of the Subaru to free the girl after she was seen abandoned in the car in an underground car park at Katoomba just before 6pm on Monday. She was taken by ambulance to hospital and released later that night. Her mother was charged with leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle causing harm or emotional distress. She will appear in Katoomba Local Court on March 3. (SMH)

6.32am LOCAL SPORT - Hawks: Wollongong back-court enforcer Tyson Demos has all but resigned himself to missing Sunday's round-14 home match against the Cairns Taipans. Demos has been in hospital since Sunday night and remains on an antibiotics drip for a badly infected leg. The Hawks are set to take on the Taipans at the WEC from 2pm.

6.30am Legally Blonde: The Musical is coming to Wollongong! Moonglow Productions is set to stage the musical for the first time in Wollongong from July 4-5 @ the WIN Entertainment Centre. Auditions are March 1 & 2. Head over to the website to book a spot!

6.28am STRANGE BUT TRUE: We've got snaps of the world's largest outdoor sculpture-in-development - the Crazy Horse Memorial - and it's huge. Check it out.

6.26am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong Botanic Garden's duck population has made a New Year's resolution - no more carbs. Yep, the ducks are on a diet - and they're not allowed to eat bread. Read more here.

6.24am CELEB GOSS ALERT: If you missed this one yesterday, Aussie hottie Chris Hemsworth and his wife are expecting twins! Wow, very nice for them. Congrats guys!

6.23am SPORT: Maria Sharapova has called for tennis officials to clear confusion over what qualifies as unplayable conditions after she was forced to play in temperatures above 40 degrees at the Australian Open. Read more here.

6.21am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: The body of missing Australian soldier Captain Paul McKay has been found near the summit of Scarface Mountain in upstate New York. There were grave concerns for Captain McKay, who was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour of Afghanistan and was on leave from the Australian Army. Captain McKay was last seen on New Year's Eve walking on railroad tracks in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. (SMH)

6.18am MOVIE NEWS: Disney film Frozen is set to be turned into a Broadway musical. How exciting!

6.16am Are your kids keen to indulge their creative side? Why not head over to the Wollongong Art Gallery today for the ‘‘Monet’s Pizza Supremo’’ workshop. Learn about the impressionist painter Monet by exploring his world of bold texture and rich colour. 10am – 12pm. Suitable for ages 5-8. Then, test out the ‘‘Woolly Bug Sculptures’’ workshop from 1.30pm - 3.30pm.

6.14am BREAKING - BUSHFIRE CRISIS: There are now more than 100,000 ha burning across South Australia. Evacations are underway, amid concerns a cool change to come in late this morning will change fire directions.

6.12am CELEB GOSS ALERT: The 2014 Oscar nominations have been announced! We've got a complete list but it looks set to be all about American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street & 12 Years a Slave.

6.10am BREAKING - BUSHFIRE CRISIS: Firefighters in Victoria are bracing for the worst fire conditions since Black Saturday. 43 fires are currently burning with 25 new blazes starting overnight. (Nine News)

6.08am Let's have a look at the national headlines, courtesy of the SMH:

*Patients of a Sydney dentist have been told of possible exposure to HIV and hepatitis because medical equipment was not steralised properly.

*There’s been a decline in the ATAR cut-off for university teaching degrees.

*The CSIRO has found that the shallows are teeming with young great white sharks from Lake Macquarie to Seal Rocks.

6.06am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Passers-by had to rescue a toddler from a burning home in North Nowra on Thursday after she had been left on her own in the house before the blaze broke out, police said.

*A 13-year-old boy had to be dragged to shore after accidentally firing a speargun into his leg at Towradgi Beach yesterday.

*A 10-metre trawler was ‘‘five minutes from sinking’’ in Wollongong Harbour on Thursday night before firefighters came to the rescue.

*NSW Police have been ordered to pay a $7500 legal bill after wrongly accusing a Picton man of abusing turkeys at Inghams' Tahmoor processing plant.

6.03am If you're just waking up, good morning pet. Let's have a look at the weather, traffic and trains as they stand right now.

WEATHER It's going to be another sunny day, yay! We're headed for a top of 27 degrees, gorgeous. Fire danger is very high and the UV is extreme. Tomorrow is going to be very warm and sunny with a predicted top of 29 while a few showers and a top of 24 is expected for Sunday. Right now, it's 16 in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay around town and for the run to Sydney. Don't forget traffic could be busy around Bulli today due to the Illawarra Folk Festival. Take it easy!

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

6am Good morning, TGIF! Yep, we made it to the end of the week, yippee! Stay with us this morning for all the latest news as it comes to hand.

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