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

8.55am That's it from me this morning. Have a great Monday and come back for another edition of the Rush tomorrow.

8.52am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies

WEATHER It’s going to be a clear and sunny day. Top temps of about 25 degrees are expected across the Illawarra, with a few light winds about this afternoon. The surf is deceptively powerful today, so take care if going for a dip.

TRAFFIC There are no accidents about this morning, giving commuters a clean run between Nowra and Sydney. Don’t forget those ongoing roadworks on Mount Ousley at Picton Road.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

8.48am WORLD NEWS Footage has been released of the last known images of two pilots who boarded a passenger jet in Malaysia more than a week ago, and then seemingly vanished into thin air. SMH

8.44am Holidaymakers won't be getting the Eiffel Tower shots they want this week. Paris is still under a heavy layer of smog thanks to high levels of air pollution.

8.40am Comedian comedian Akmal Saleh will perform at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre this Friday night. He's great live - comedy fans should be sure to check it out.

8.36am CELEB GOSS 12 Years A Slave star Lupita Nyong’o is apparently in talks to star in the upcoming Star Wars movie. No matter what you think about the franchise being continued, it sounds like a lot of stars are interested in adding "Jedi" to their CV.

Oh, and Carrie Fisher is reportedly in talks to reprise her role as Princess Leia. No word yet whether she will don her famous bikini again.

8.32am NATIONAL NEWS Heavy trucks will be fined for travelling on some roads under measures being developed by the O'Farrell government to push them into new motorway tunnels. Roads Minister Duncan Gay says he will fine heavy vehicles that continue to drive along Pennant Hills Road once a new motorway tunnel is built linking the M2 with the M1 in northern Sydney by 2019. SMH

8.29am March 17 isn't just known for St Patrick's day - its marks the anniversary of other important events in history too.

On this day in 180 AD, Marcus Aurelius died, making Commodus the sole emperor of the Roman Empire.

In 1861, The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed.

And in 1992, a referendum to end apartheid in South Africa was passed 68.7 per cent  to 31.2 per cent.

8.25am BREAKING A woman’s body has been pulled from a river on the Queensland-NSW border. Detectives are not saying how she died, but they are treating her death as suspicious. Her body was found in the McIntyre River at Goondiwindi just before 11am on Sunday. AAP

8.22am CELEB GOSS Fake celeb death rumours strike again. Happily, Newman from Seinfeld is still alive and kicking.

8.18am Kiddies are no longer sticking to ABC shows. They're more likely to watch reality shows such as My Kitchen Rules with their parents. Get the lowdown on kids' viewing habits here

8.15am OLYMPIC NEWS The Sochi Paralympics have come to an end in style. Check out pictures here

8.12am Coffee and beer - a possible perfect combination? Glen Humphries reports on the new taste by the Illawarra Brewing Company.

8.09am It's Die Hard, but with pugs! A definite improvement on the original

8.05am Mount Kembla's Yeong Sassall had more in common with her adoptive mother and sister than she ever thought possible - the breast cancer gene. Read the full story here.

8.02am Looking back, some of these hit songs were downright creepy. Daily Life has a list of the top creepy love songs by white pop singer, including My Sharona and Evie. Thoughts?

7.58am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies

WEATHER It’s going to be a clear and sunny day. Top temps of about 25 degrees are expected across the Illawarra, with a few light winds about this afternoon. The surf is deceptively powerful today, so take care if going for a dip.

TRAFFIC There are no accidents about this morning, giving commuters a clean run between Nowra and Sydney. Don’t forget those ongoing roadworks on Mount Ousley at Picton Road.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

7.54am This cute pooch is all dressed up and ready to celebrated St Paddy's day.

7.50am SPORT NEWS After becoming the first local driver to stand on the podium at home in a world championship Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for a technical infringement. Brutal.

Read more here

7.47am WORLD NEWS Glenn McDuffie, the man who became known for claiming he was the sailor kissing a woman in Times Square in a famous World War II-era photo, died over the weekend aged 86.

7.44am In answer to this question, no. No there is not.

7.40am The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content.

7.37am Apparently Sherlock Holmes was based on a real detective - Jerome Caminada. 

A biography of Caminada reveals a series of striking similarities between him and the fictional character - including working with an alluring criminal, similar to Irene Adler, and facing off with a real-life nemesis in the vein of Moriarty. SMH

7.34am LOCAL NEWS Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash is not concerned about any potential political fallout over the removal of the Bum Tree on Gerroa Road.

“We make decisions that may not please everyone but we are here to make decisions in the best interest of everyone and that’s all we can do," she said.

7.30am MOVIE NEWS Angelina Jolie looks awesome as villain Maleficent in the upcoming Disney flick. Those cheekbones! The movie will be released in May.

7.27am Happy Birthday to all the Pisceans. If you're born today, you share your celebrations with actors Rob Lowe and Kurt Russell, Kim Kardashian's brother Rob and crooner Nat King Cole.

7.23am It's St Patrick's Day! While still a little early for a Guinness, don a green top in celebration of the Irish saint. Wollongong pub Dicey Riley's is holding a celebration tonight.

7.19am LOCAL SPORT NEWS St George Illawarra prop Dan Hunt has invited the side’s critics to keep writing them off as the Dragons continue to swiftly consign a rocky preseason to the memory bank.

Battered and bruised after a Charity Shield mauling, St George Illawarra sit perched on top of the ladder after just two rounds, a position scarcely imaginable just a few weeks ago. 

7.16am LOCAL NEWS Mangerton teen Shona Conacher’s skills with a hula hoop have taken her from the Illawarra, all around New Zealand and now across the globe to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Check out the story by Joshua Butler here.

7.13am This is great - what the world's most famous landmarks actually look like in context. I remember visiting Stonehenge, and being stunned it was just sitting there in the middle of a sheep paddock, between two fairly busy roads

7.09am How is Remember the Titans not on this list? The Top 10 Sport films, as suggested by the SMH's film critic. What do you think? Has he missed anything important?

7.06am I believe it is time for a cute animal picture to brighten the morning. I'd trust theses pups to rescue me

7.03am It's Seniors Week! Check out a huge list of activities celebrating the more mature man and woman here

7am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies

WEATHER It’s going to be a clear and sunny day. Top temps of about 25 degrees are expected across the Illawarra, with a few light winds about this afternoon. The surf is deceptively powerful today, so take care if going for a dip.

TRAFFIC There are no accidents about this morning, giving commuters a clean run between Nowra and Sydney. Don’t forget those ongoing roadworks on Mount Ousley at Picton Road.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

6.57am It's Meat Free Week next week, to raise money for Bowel Cancer Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Voiceless, the animal protection organisation. Could you go with steak and snitty for a week?

6.54am Open plan offices could be making us sick, according to the latest Swedish research. Though nine of out 10 offices favour a sprawling plan over individual offices, a Stockholm University study of nearly 2000 workers found their office layout had a ''significant'' bearing on the amount of sick leave they took. 

They suggested the risk of infection could be higher among people sharing a workspace and that workers were more exposed to environmental stress agents such as noise.

I blame the air conditioning.

6.51am Legally Blonde is coming! Moonglow Productions is set to stage the musical for the first time in Wollongong on July 4-5 @ the WIN Entertainment Centre.

6.48am In can-you-believe-how-crazy-this-is news, Christian radio hosts in the US have slammed the latest Disney animation Frozen as pushing pro-homosexuality and pro-bestiality agendas.

Apparently, the film's hit song Let It Go nods to a pro-gay culture, while one character has been accused of having a relationship with his pet reindeer that is "a little outside of nature's laws."

Really people, it's a children's movie!

6.45am LOCAL NEWS The Wave FM Great Illawarra Walk next weekend to help raise funds for Wollongong Hospital's neonatal ward.

One couple keen to take part are Cringila's Fatima and Ray Alchaar, whose daughter Soumaya weighed just just over one kilogram when she came into the world, 11 weeks early, on December 16 last year.

But last week they were finally able to bring their baby girl home from the neonatal ward weighing a healthy 3.5 kilograms.

6.41am CELEB GOSS Madonna did her best Daenerys Targaryen impression for a recent Jewish holiday, complete with fake dragons. No offence Madge, but I think Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke does it better

6.37am Have you seen the beautiful pics doing the rounds on social media of the inflatable sun and moon bobbing on Sydney Harbour in preparation for Madama Butterfly? It looks absolutely stunning. The Opera begins in the Royal Botanic Gardens this weekend.

6.33am WORLDS NEWS The final words from the cockpit of a missing Malaysian jetliner gave no clue of anything wrong even though one of the plane's communications systems was disabled, officials say, increasing suspicions one or both of the pilots were involved in the disappearance. (SMH)

6.29am CELEB GOSS The Rolling Stones have landed in Oz this morning, ahead of their latest tour. Looking pretty good for a group of septuagenarians!

6.26am Also in movie news, The Lego Movie has done so well plans for a sequel, to be shot in Sydney, are already underway. If you haven't seen the original yet, make sure to - it's awesome.

6.23am Veronica Mars fans rejoiced over the weekend as the new film, that they helped create, was released. After the TV show finished its run several years ago, fans, known as Marshmallows, campaigned to bring it back. It worked - they raised more than $5 million in Kickstarter donations to convince Warner Bros executives to make a movie. 

6.17am LOCAL NEWS The Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol spotted 12 hammerhead sharks in a bay near Primbee on Sunday.

The sharks were seen near five large schools of fish south of Port Kembla during two sweeps of the region’s beaches.

6.14am NATIONAL NEWS A three-month old boy has died after he and his mother fell from a second-floor balcony on the central coast. The baby fell more than five metres from the Niagara Park home near Gosford just after 1pm on Sunday afternoon. (SMH)

6.11am LOCAL SPORT NEWS St George Illawarra have come home strongly with the wind at their backs to score a 31-12 win that extends their NRL dominance over the Warriors. Check out the gallery here

6.08am Let’s take a look at the national headlines, courtesy of the SMH

*Missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 was close to running out of fuel at the time a satellite picked up its last confirmed single. Malaysian authorities have included parts of the Indian Ocean they see as Australia’s responsibility in a southern search corridor where the missing flight could have flown.

*The latest Fairfax Nielsen poll has revealed voters would support Tony Abbott in making crucial changes to Medicare to rein in burgeoning costs and pare back its free universal health care provision to only the most needy.

*Timothy Nicholls, now 33, has spoken out about being raped and almost killed by Brett Peter Cowan 27 years ago, when he was seven years old.

Cowan was sentenced to two years in jail for the attack. Last Friday he was sentenced to life in prison for the abduction and murder of Sunshine Coast schoolboy Daniel Morcombe, 13, in 2003.

6.05am Here’s what’s making news in today’s Mercury

*A non-partisan nationwide protest against the Abbott Government’s policies attracted 1500 people to a rally at North Wollongong on Sunday.

Carrying placards that read ‘Hands off our Medicare’ and chanting ‘Stand up and fight back’ the crowd expressed a range of emotions from anger, frustration and embarrassment particularly over the treatment of asylum seekers.

*Areas of Kiama will be among the first in the country to have the copper network switched off. The move is the last stage of the NBN roll-out. Eighteen months after the network is switched on, the procedure is to switch off the copper network.

*A 66-year-old Nowra man was killed when his gyrocopter crashed in a dairy paddock in Brundee at about 10am on Sunday morning.

*Tourism generates 19,700 South Coast jobs and contributes $2 billion to the region's economy, according to a new report.

The profile, by the South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation, covers Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven, Jervis Bay, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley.

6.02am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies

WEATHER It’s going to be a clear and sunny day. Top temps of about 25 degrees are expected across the Illawarra, with a few light winds about this afternoon. The surf is deceptively powerful today, so take care if going for a dip.

TRAFFIC There are no accidents about this morning, giving commuters a clean run between Nowra and Sydney. Don’t forget those ongoing roadworks on Mount Ousley at Picton Road.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

6am Good morning, welcome to Monday! It's March 17. Stay with me this morning for all the latest news, sport, weather & online buzz.

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