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

8.48am That's it from us this morning. Hope you enjoyed this morning's edition of the Rush. Tune in tomorrow for more news, sport & online buzz. Stay inside - it's just started pouring down out there! Have a great day - and remember to SMILE, you live in the happiest city :)

8.45am Men over 50 are three times as likely to die from melanoma as women, and most are unaware of skin cancer risks despite countless awareness campaigns. The latest Cancer Council NSW survey of 500 people has found that more than a third of older men believe they have done irreversible damage to their skin, but less than half of men aged between 50 to 59 get regular skin checks

8.42am BREAKING: The Reserve Bank is tipped to keep interest rates on hold, when the board meets for the first time in two months today. (Nine News)

8.39am STRANGE BUT TRUE: When Sam Vilain, 34, and Melia Meggs, 30, were married last June in Santa Cruz, California, the groom rented robots from Anybots, so that friends in New Zealand could watch and even interact with guests on the dance floor despite being halfway around the world. NB Note to fiancee - this is a BIG NO!

8.36am I went to the 20/20 on Sunday night to see the Aussies SMASH the Poms (12-1 anyone!?) Loved the atmosphere of 20/20, great fun! This story on the Guardian pretty much sums up the Brit's appearance in Aus - dismal.

8.33am Valentine's Day is just around the corner! Do you have plans for your sweetie?

8.30am WORLD NEWS: A suspected member of Italy's notorious Calabrian mafia serving a life sentence for murder has escaped after accomplices staged a spectacular assault on a prison van outside a courtroom. Domenico Cutri, a 32-year-old presumed member of the Ndrangheta, was being escorted out of a tribunal on Monday in Gallarate, near Milan, when the four policemen guarding him were attacked with guns and stinging gas by four assailants in two cars.

8.27am Merrigong’s own production The Man Who Dreamt the Stars opens next week. Don't miss out, it looks like a good one! Head to the company's website to book seats.

8.24am NATIONAL: NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has defended a government scheme that gives non-Australian citizens $5000 new home grants, saying it is boosting housing construction and affordability. But he says the government is open to making changes to the New Home Grant Scheme to help all first home buyers.(AAP)

8.20am How amazing are these ice-cream cones!? Holy crap, some people are so talented! 

8.17am BREAKING: This year's Super Bowl was the most-watched program in US history. (The Huffington Post)

8.14am TRAFFIC ALERT - KIAMA: one southbound lane is closed on the Kiama bends after a truck breakdown. Emergency services are on the scene. Slow down!

8.11am NATIONAL NEWS: The second cyclone in four days has crossed the Queensland coast - and again it’s been a fizzer. Cyclone Fletcher made landfall as a category one storm between Karumba and the Gilbert River Mouth in the Gulf of Carpentaria about 7.30pm yesterday. Since downgraded to a tropical low, it is bringing rain to the gulf country, including some localised flooding in communities such as Kowanyama, north of Karumba. A cyclone warning remains current for coastal and island communities from the Northern Territory-Queensland border to the Gilbert River Mouth, and for Mornington Island. Fletcher crossed the coast, hot on the heels of Cyclone Dylan, which made landfall in north Queensland on Friday as a category two storm. It also brought heavy rain but did little damage. Cyclone Edna formed on Saturday but didn’t cross the coast and petered out in the Coral Sea. (AAP)

8.08am After more than two decades in Perth, the Big Day Out bid adieu with Pearl Jam, Grammy-nominated Perth rockers Tame Impala and Arcade Fire among those gracing the final line-up. Reports of low ticket sales plagued the event and that much was evident at the Joondalup Arena (following a late venue-change from the Claremont Showgrounds), with sparsely-populated lawns and fans easily making their way to the barrier even during headline acts.

8.05am You've got to watch this video. Ukrainian protesters have installed a golden toilet in place of the Lenin statue they toppled in December, sending a message to the country's authorities.

8.02am Awwwwwwww, this picture is adorable. Nothing cuter than the relationship between a child and his best mate - the family dog.

8am STRANGE BUT TRUE:  A pest control company in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi has been given a contract to exterminate dogs during the Games. Alexei Sorokin, director general of Basya Services, said his company was involved in the "catching and disposing" of dogs. Thousands of stray dogs are roaming the streets of Sochi, according to Sorokin, who said some were biting children. He said he attended a rehearsal of the Olympic opening ceremony last week and saw a stray dog walking in on the performers. (The Guardian)

7.58am LOCAL SPORT: One of Australia's finest distance athletes, Dave Power, passed away on Sunday, aged 85. Born in Maitland on July 14, 1928, Power was based in Wollongong for his entire top-flight athletic career, which included two Olympic Games appearances and two Commonwealth Games.

7.55am WORLD NEWS: In very scary news, cancer cases worldwide are predicted to increase by 70% over the next two decades, from 14m in 2012 to 25m new cases a year, according to the World Health Organisation. (The Guardian)

7.53am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Smile - you live in the happiest city in Australia. Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country, in a mammoth image processing study using photos uploaded to photo sharing service Instagram.

*Dapto man whose car collided with a kangaroo on the M1 is outraged his insurer has refused to waive the excess on a claim to repair his vehicle. Read more here.

*Fences and barricades returned to the Crown St Mall yesterday, as Wollongong City Council prepared to start its final stage of works on the CBD strip.

*Lack of access to medical specialists has emerged as one of the region's most pressing health concerns in a survey completed by almost 1500 residents.

7.51am Good morning and happy Tuesday! Let's have a look at what's happening out there, shall we?

WEATHER We're headed for a windy day with a top of just 22 degrees. There is the chance of a few showers too so not a great day. Right now, it's 21 degrees in Albion Park and 20 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay for the run around the Gong and for the drive to Sydney or south.

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

7.47am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: Broadway marquees will dim their lights to honor Philip Seymour Hoffman. (AP)

7.45am This made me crack up this morning - spoof company slogans that are oh so true. Like this one: "IKEA: We throw in extra parts just to mess with you." Classic!

7.43am LOCAL NEWS: One teenager is in hospital with stab wounds to the chest while another is in police custody after an apparent classroom fight in Nowra. Police have charged a 13-year-old boy over the stabbing at Shoalhaven High School in Nowra.

7.40am Okay, so I've only just heard about this seriously alarming Neknominate trend - and it has to stop. Very, very silly. Read more about it here.

7.38am SPORT: Infraction notices may still be issued against NRL and AFL players while former Federal Court judge Garry Downes is reviewing details of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's 12-month investigation into doping allegations in both codes.

7.36am BREAKING CELEB NEWS: Up to 50 envelopes of what is believed to be heroin were found in the apartment of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died from an apparent drug overdose in New York, according to reports. Detectives also found more than 20 used syringes in a plastic cup and several other bags of white powder, CNN said, citing two unnamed law enforcement officials involved in the investigation. It came as Radar Online reported that Hoffman was spending upwards of $US10,000 ($11,400) a month on heroin and using the prescription drug Oxycontin. (SMH)

7.34am TV NEWS: There was a Seinfeld reunion! But it only went for a minute & a half and it doesn't equal a whole new series. :(

7.32am LOCAL SPORT: As rugby league players sweat it out over the preseason, summer can prove just as tough for the game's referees, according to 314 game NRL veteran Steve Clark. Clark spent the weekend at Fairy Meadow, casting his eye over what he hopes will be the next generation of NRL whistleblowers at the annual Country Rugby League (CRL) referees seminar.

7.30am CELEB NEWS: Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen's daughter, penned a startling open letter alleging the famous directer had molested her. She took a swipe at several stars, including Cate Blanchett - and they had a little something to say in return.

7.28am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Ever thought about doing a house-swap, The Holiday style?This story will DEFINITELY change your mind. Piles of dog poo anyone?

7.26am Opposition to Western Australia's shark cull has intensified as thousands of people took to beaches across the continent at the weekend to call on the state's premier to end the policy, and the RSPCA Australia and Richard Branson spoke out against it. (The Guardian)

7.22am MOVIE NEWS: Check out Philip Seymour Hoffman's top 10 film rolesand remember what a sensational actor he was. RIP. 

7.18am LOCAL NEWS: A Bellambi man will fight accusations he repeatedly punched his mother and threw her against a wall during a heated argument over household chores. Read more here.

7.16am The Laneway Festival was on in Sydney on Sunday - and by all accounts, it was a smash. Great to see a festival doing so well, considering all we've heard about music festivals in Aus of late. 

7.14am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: Schapelle Corby could be released within weeks after senior correctional board officials held a meeting to discuss her parole. (Nine News)

7.12am Wild Rumpus is set to host its next suitcase market on March 9. Can't wait!

7.10am NATIONAL NEWS: A $1 million reward and the chance of immunity from prosecution will be offered for information that leads to a conviction over the disappearance of schoolgirl Siriyakorn "Bung" Siriboon. Detectives continue to investigate two men of interest, but believe a member of the public may hold a vital piece of information that could close the 2½-year case. The family of the missing 13-year-old is expected to announce the reward today.

7.08am TRAFFIC ALERT - MOUNT PLEASANT: all northbound lanes on Mount Ousley Rd are now open, just past New Mount Pleasant Rd, after an earlier truck breakdown

7.07am It's the final two weeks for the sunset cinema at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. But there are still PLENTY of great films to see - check out the guide online.

7.05am BREAKING:  A man has died in Sydney’s west amid reports of fighting and shouting inside an apartment. Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the man in Auburn, in the early hours of this morning. Media reports say neighbours were woken just before 1am to the sounds of screaming and shouting at a unit complex on Marion Street. Inside the unit police found the body of the man, believed to be a 23-year-old Chinese national. Police will not confirm how he died, but it is believed he was stabbed, Macquarie Radio reports. (AAP)

7.03am I love this story on the SMH's Daily Life this morning. A 7-year-old girl wrote a letter to Lego, complaining about how the "girl" legos just "sat at the beach and had no jobs" while the boy legos got to go on adventures. Arr classic. From the mind of a child!

7.01am LOCAL NEWS: The University of Wollongong will play host to over 5400 high school students from 139 schools at its annual Discovery Days this week.

6.59am So the kids have been back at school for a week and you're already out of ideas to fill their lunchboxes. Fear not! Why not whip up a batch of these cheese & veggie scones? They look delish. NB If someone wants to cook them and bring them to the Merc office, that would be superb!

6.57am NATIONAL NEWS: A locked axle that prevented a train wheel spinning is emerging as the most likely cause of the Sydney Trains derailment at Edgecliff last month, which propelled a metal pole through the floor of a carriage.

6.55am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Smile - you live in the happiest city in Australia. Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country, in a mammoth image processing study using photos uploaded to photo sharing service Instagram.

*Dapto man whose car collided with a kangaroo on the M1 is outraged his insurer has refused to waive the excess on a claim to repair his vehicle. Read more here.

*Fences and barricades returned to the Crown St Mall yesterday, as Wollongong City Council prepared to start its final stage of works on the CBD strip.

*Lack of access to medical specialists has emerged as one of the region's most pressing health concerns in a survey completed by almost 1500 residents.

6.53am Good morning and happy Tuesday! Let's have a look at what's happening out there, shall we?

WEATHER We're headed for a windy day with a top of just 22 degrees. There is the chance of a few showers too so not a great day. Right now, it's 18 degrees in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay for the run around the Gong and for the drive to Sydney or south.

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

6am Good morning and happy Tuesday! I'm back after three days off - and what a shock to the system 4.45am was today! Anywho, now I'm up, stay with me for all the latest news and goss.

6.51am LOCAL SPORT: Townsville coach Shawn Dennis sees a lot in common with his own team when he looks at the Hawks. While clubs like Perth and New Zealand never seem to be short of a dollar, Wollongong and Townsville struggle year to year to keep their heads above water.

6.48am CELEB NEWS: Philip Seymour Hoffman had spilt from his partner before he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment of a suspected heroin overdose.  The alarm was reportedly raised when Hoffman failed to turn up on Sunday to collect his three children from their mother, who called a friend to go and check on him. Since his death it has emerged that he was recently living apart from Mimi O'Donnell and their children, in the rented apartment where he died near the family home.

6.46am People, I bring you the mac-n-cheese pizza. Could you do it?

6.44am STRANGE BUT (MAYBE) TRUE: Rats could grow to the size of sheep or even bigger as they evolve to fill vacant ecological niches, according to a UK scientist. The terrifying scenario could become a reality as super-adaptable rats take advantage of larger mammals becoming extinct, geologist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, from the University of Leicester, predicts. NB Ewwwwwwwwwwww -  I just vomited in my mouth. 

6.42am Legally Blonde: The Musical is coming! Moonglow Productions is set to stage the musical for the first time in Wollongong on July 4-5 @ the WIN Entertainment Centre. Auditions are March 1 & 2. Head over to the website to book a spot!

6.40am If you missed this one yesterday, some absolutely TV tragic news - Channel Seven has dumped Today Tonight in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, replacing the tabloid current affairs show with a one-hour news service.  All Today Tonight staff on the east coast have been redeployed to make "news investigations and features" for the bulletin. 

6.38am LOCAL NEWS: Opponents of the Shellharbour City Hub development are calling on the city's Deputy Mayor to step down after he threatened a speaker at a heated public meeting. Read all about it here.

6.36am NATIONAL NEWS: Sydney has recorded its lowest summer rainfall to date in more than 70 years, as the state swelters through its driest January in more than a decade. NSW has had its driest January since 2003, with a statewide average of just 20.6 millimetres - or less than a third of the average rainfall.

6.34am CELEB GOSS ALERT: She's just being Miley. Well, kind of. Miley Cyrus has posed for W magazine - and she's almost unrecognisable. NB ALERT, ALERT, image not for faint-hearted.

6.32am Speaking of sport (again!), The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content!

6.30am SPORT: The lawyer for Blake Ferguson has launched a scathing attack on the NRL for their lack of ''mercy'' towards the troubled NSW Origin star and questioned what would become of him if he wasn't allowed to resume playing after receiving a two-year good behaviour bond for indecent assault. Read more here.

6.26am Did you miss MKR last night? Don't fret - here's what you missed. NB I missed the first few episodes and now fear it's too late for me to catch up. Thoughts? 

6.24am Harry Potter fans - if you felt the Hermione/Ron relationship was always a tad off, well, you're not alone. The wizard series' creator J K Rowling has admitted she may have got it wrong by matching Hermione with Ron. Is it too late for a re-write?

6.22am Shellharbour's senior residents are the focus of a photo competition to promote images of positive ageing to the community. Each submission needs to include a description of up to 50 words detailing how each image depicts a positive image of ageing. Entries close 5pm, Friday 14 February and selected photographs will be exhibited at Shellharbour Village Exhibition Space from 17-21 March.

6.20am BREAKING NEWS: An Australian man has died after being found unconscious in a Bali restaurant, local police say. Read more here. 

6.18am LOCAL NEWS: A jury of nine women and three men has been selected to hear the case against the trio accused of murdering Wollongong lawyer Katie Foreman.

6.17am TRAFFIC ALERT - Mt Pleasant: one of three northbound lanes on Mt Oulsey Rd is blocked, just past New Mount Pleasant Rd, due to a truck breakdown.

6.16am Speaking of sport, did you watch the Superbowl yesterday? The game might have been a complete one-sider but the ads are always a crowd pleaser. We've got the best ads from the game right here.

6.14am LOCAL SPORT: Veteran Dragons prop Dan Hunt is hopeful of returning from injury in the Charity Shield later this month.

6.12am WORLD NEWS: An armed student has entered a Moscow school and taken more than 20 teenagers hostage in an incident that also claimed the lives of a policeman and a teacher, security officials says. The hostage-taker was one of the students of school number 263 on the northern outskirts of Moscow, police officials said

6.10am Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe has been admitted to a rehabilitation clinic as he battles with depression. His admittance into a clinic came after a disoriented Thorpe was taken to hospital by police in the early hours of Monday morning, after police were called to a south-west Sydney street by concerned residents.

6.08am CELEB NEWS: The Hunger Games cast are in mourning after the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. They have shared their thoughts on their co-star.

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

*Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned Australians that the days of governments saving businesses and jobs has passed, telling them, ‘‘the age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun’’.

*Two former prime ministers and five Labor ministers have been summoned to provide all documentation and be ready to appear before the Abbott government’s batts insulation royal commission.

*The state’s top judge has condemned the O’Farrell government for introducing mandatory minimum jail terms for alcohol and drugs fuelled violence and rejecting claims that judges are ‘‘soft on crime’’.

*The coalition appears to be vastly better off than Labor, with the Liberals and Nationals making about $26 million more than their political opponents last year.

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

*Smile - you live in the happiest city in Australia. Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country, in a mammoth image processing study using photos uploaded to photo sharing service Instagram.

*A Dapto man whose car collided with a kangaroo on the M1 is outraged his insurer has refused to waive the excess on a claim to repair his vehicle. Read more here.

*Fences and barricades returned to the Crown St Mall yesterday, as Wollongong City Council prepared to start its final stage of works on the CBD strip.

*Lack of access to medical specialists has emerged as one of the region's most pressing health concerns in a survey completed by almost 1500 residents.

6.02am Let's have a look at what's in the sky, on the road and on the railway lines for this Tuesday morning, shall we?

WEATHER We're headed for a windy day with a top of just 22 degrees. There is the chance of a few showers too so not a great day. Right now, it's 17 degrees in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay for the run around the Gong and for the drive to Sydney or south.

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

6am Good morning and happy Tuesday! I'm back after three days off - and what a shock to the system 4.45am was today! Anywho, now I'm up, stay with me for all the latest news and goss.

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