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

8.48am That's it from us this morning. Have a fabulous weekend. See you next week!

8.46am NATIONAL NEWS: Australia's defence minister is optimistic a new legal agreement will come through in time for troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year.

8.44am #fbf George Clooney. Wow. The years have been VERY good to him.

8.42am 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. Tickets are available via Ticketek now!

8.40am SPORT: The Major League Baseball at the SCG failed to attract huge crowds yesterday. Read the full story here.

8.38am (GROSS) WORLD NEWS: At least 70 people fell badly ill after a "faecal incident" on a slide at an indoor playground sparked a norovirus outbreak. Public health authorities are calling for stricter measures at indoor playgrounds after the "code brown" at Chipmunks Playland and Cafe in Tawa, New Zealand, when children and adults at 10 separate birthday parties were infected

8.36am Ha! My motto for the day - TGIF!

8.34am STRANGE BUT TRUE: And it's a local one! Kiama is hoping to write itself into the record books for the most number of couples kissing simultaneously for 60 seconds in a Guinness World Records attempt at Black Beach on Sunday.

8.32am Wow, the team at Mudcat Cafe are doing some awesome stuff with their coffee - spot the lion!

8.30am Don't forget to mark Harmony Day. Wear orange/red/yellow or just try to be peaceful and tolerant.

8.28am Chocolate lovers, great news - a new study has found our gut bacteria chews up chocolate and ferments it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart. Yes! Now, pass me the Marvellous Creations...

8.26am Today is World Down Syndrome Day.

8.24am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Mila Kunis is apparently NOT happy that her fiancee Ashton Kutcher topped Lindsay Lohan's conquest list. Oh dear. Someone is going to be sleeping on the couch.

8.22am Don't forget the MS 24-hour swim is on at URAC this weekend. Pop in for a dip & raise much-needed funds for a good cause.

8.20am You have to watch this video of a sleepy little kitty trying to stay awake - it's hilarious. I'm sniggering at my desk - looks exactly like me when I try to keep my eyes open!

8.18am Young Frankenstein opens at Arcadians tonight. Chookas to all involved - I know it will be a great show!

8.16am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Warning, this story is a little naughty - and will make you rethink using Airbnb. A New Yorker inadvertently rented out his Manhattan apartment to a man who intended to host a ‘XXX Freak Fest’ orgy through Airbnb. Ha! Can't stop laughing, can you imagine!?

8.14am Don't miss today's edition of Radar Illawarra, the Merc's live music column. Click here for all the details.

8.12am Love this - a motto to live by today.

8.10am NATIONAL NEWS: An email sent by the Catholic Church's solicitor to its barristers suggested sex abuse victim John Ellis, as a boy of 14 or 15, used to "force himself" on the ageing priest who was sexually abusing him.

8.08am The Harbourfront restaurant is launching a new eatery - Level One - Harbourfront. It opens next week. Don't miss out!

8.02am LOCAL NEWS: Kiama Municipal Council's vision of a petrol station on Riverside Drive at Bombo is a step closer with consultants engaged to confirm that a service station would be "workable and feasible" on the site in question.

8am This pic is a CRACKER - have you ever wondered what your dog gets up to when you're not at home? Well, wonder no more...

7.58am Have you entered the Merc’s footy tipping comp? It’s not too late to sign up - even if it’s purely for bragging rights.

7.56am NATIONAL NEWS: The Abbott government has tripled the amount of money spent on the large orange lifeboats used to tow back asylum seekers breaching Australian waters to Indonesia to $7.5 million as part of its tough border control policy.

7.54am TV NEWS: Gwyneth Paltrow has sung Pharell William's "Happy" on the latest episode of Glee - and it's a little cringe-worthy. Thoughts?

7.52am Good morning Illawarra! TGIF if you're just tuning in! Let's check out the latest weather & traffic.

WEATHER We're in for another fairly warm day - it will be partly cloudy but we're set to hit 25 degrees. There will be a shower or two so keep your brollies handy. The weekend looks pretty similiar - temps in the mid 20s & showers. Right now, it's 20 in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC There is some flooding at Warrawong (King St @ Shellharbour Rd), which is affecting traffic in both directions. Take it easy. Otherwise, it's all clear on the region's roads & for the run to Sydney.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line

7.50am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: Two teens accused of killing Aussie Chris Lane have pleaded not guilty.

7.48am TIARA ALERT: Prince George's new nanny reported for duty this week - and she's college trained and everything! Wowee!

7.46am Don't forget the Great Illawarra Walk is on this weekend. Grab your joggers & band-aids.

7.44am Everest, Beach, Nile and Oceana - these are the names scientists are predicting will be popular for babies in the future. Kill me, just kill me now if these are my options. Place names (Dakota anyone!?) and sci-fi names (think Nero, Thor) are also on-trend for the future.

7.42am MOVIE NEWS: Hottie McHot Dermot Mulroney has opened up the possibility of a sequel to hit movie "My Best Friend's Wedding" - I LOVE that movie. Please please let this be true!

7.40am Wendy Matthews & Sammy Baker are performing at Waves tomorrow night from 7pm.

7.38am BREAKING: A house has been sprayed with bullets and a car has burst into flames in a shooting in western Sydney. Police are investigating after residents of the home in Bratsell Street, Moorebank, heard bangs outside their residence about 1am today. Shortly after, they saw their Mazda 4WD on fire in their driveway. The 38-year-old occupant of the home and his wife weren’t injured. (AAP)

7.36am LOCAL NEWS: Work has begun to prepare the Foxground and Berry bypass route for construction later this year.

7.35am If Ms Minogue's clip was too sexy for you, here's a little more PG track - her beloved duet with Jason Donovan "Especially For You". NB The 80s were a good period for no-one.

7.34am MUSIC NEWS: Kylie Minogue's new video clip for her track "Sexercize" (don't ask) is copping a bit of flack for being "too sexy." Well, this is the woman who made gold hot-pants AMAZE. You be the judge...

7.32am If you missed this one yesterday, meet the "chicken from hell" - the 250kg scary & absurd bird-like dinosaur got its nickname yesterday. Oh god, this thing freaks me out.

7.30am Headed to the Hawks game tonight? Don't forget to grab the Mercury today for a FREE poster to wave at the game.

7.28am Comedian Akmal Saleh will perform at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre tonight. Grab your tickets!

7.26am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A school in Illinois in the US is in the midst of controversy surrounding a school dress code policy that bans leggings and other tight pants. Media reports that circulated earlier this week stated Haven Middle School had banned leggings because they were "distracting for male students". Read the full story below.

7.24am LOCAL NEWS: The president of the Illawarra Law Society has described amendments to the State Government’s alcohol fuelled violence laws as an "improvement", but has continued advocating for a move away from mandatory minimum sentencing.

7.22am MOVIE NEWS: Fire up the proton packs: Ghostbusters fans can rejoice in the news that a third outing for the cult '80s hit comedy will begin filming in New York early next year. Who you gonna call!?

7.20am MUSIC NEWS: Tina Arena is back and she's headed to the WEC. Have you booked your tickets yet?

7.18am It's often unspoken but let's face it, most of the time, drivers & cyclists HATE each other. This read in the SMH today looks at why there's animosity & what we can do to fix it - great yarn.

7.16am It's time for today's edition of "anywhere but here" - today, I wish I was ice skating at the Rockefeller Rink on 5th Avenue in New York. Sigh....

7.14am Seacliff Restaurant is holding its How to Host a Murder Party tonight. If you haven't been to one before, DO IT - it's great fun!

7.12am RED CARPET: Lara Bingle has stepped out with BF Sam Worthington for the LA premiere of his film Sabotage. NB What do you think of her frock? I really like it...

7.10am NATIONAL NEWS: $22,000 dollars worth of funds paid to a Liberal Party fundraising group for Treasurer Joe Hockey's electorate, from the Obeid-linked Australian Water Holdings company since 2009, have been repaid.

7.08am Taylor Henderson (The X-Factor runner-up) is performing at Westfield Warrawong tomorrow from 12pm. Customers who purchase his CD from the JB HiFi stand will go in the draw to win a VIP meet and greet and prime viewing location of the performance. 

7.06am TV NEWS: Could a Lea Michele Glee spin-off be in the works? Well, she hasn't exactly confirmed it but she hasn't shut it down either. Watch this space...

7.04am LOCAL NEWS: Woonona-bred film and television producer Alistair Yorke is flying high after learning his show The Hook and the Cook will be screened to millions of viewers across North America.

7.02am RED CARPET: Jen Hawkins can do nothing wrong - she ALWAYS looks amazing. This Roberto Cavalli dress is a stunner.

7am WORLD NEWS: A 16-year-old boy has bypassed security and climbed to the top of One World Trade Centre, the US's tallest building, to take pictures in the middle of the night, police say. Read more on his daring adventure here.

6.58am The Merc is launching a new page on April 15 called Kid’s Corner. Send in pics of your little cherubs & we’ll print them - email kidscorner@fairfaxmedia.com.au for more info.

6.56am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kim Kardashian donned a curly wig & fake teeth for an episode of a US TV show and she looks unrecognisable!

6.55am So, apparently, the "sellotape selfie" is now a thing - yep, people tape their faces/heads & then post a pic. It's disturbing & very creepy - and potentially very painful. Sticky tape on eyebrows, ouch!

6.54am POLITICS: Federal spending per person on primary healthcare services, including visits to GPs, grew by 50 per cent over the past decade, according to new figures that may bolster the case for new fees to visit the doctor.

6.52am Good morning Illawarra! TGIF if you're just tuning in! Let's check out the latest weather & traffic.

WEATHER If you haven't heard yet, there is a storm brewing - batten down the hatches! We're in for another fairly warm day - it will be partly cloudy but we're set to hit 25 degrees. There will be a shower or two so keep your brollies handy. The weekend looks pretty similiar - temps in the mid 20s & showers. Right now, it's 17 in Albion Park and 19 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC All clear on the region's roads & for the run to Sydney.

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

6.50am CELEB GOSS ALERT: A designer has labelled David Beckham the "underwear model of the century". I agree. Wholeheartedly. Now, enjoy this shot of him showing off his, urgh, skills.

6.48am It’s Sensational Sunday at Kembla Grange this weekend and the turf club is giving away a car! That’s pretty cool. Grab your coupon in the Merc to win. We’ll also have a two-page race-day lift-out in tomorrow's paper & more info in Monday’s paper. Check out all the deets on the Fashion on the Field comp here.

6.46am The Brewery is hosting its soul, funk & jazz night tonight - head down there for some chilled tunes.

6.44am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Scientists studying the breadth of people's sense of smell said yesterday the human nose can discern far more than the 10,000 different odours long cited as the outer limit of our olfactory abilities. Wow - that's a LOT of scents - I mainly only smell bacon, fresh cut grass and garlic. Yum. Not the grass but bacon & garlic.

6.42am An interesting read from reporter Josh Butler this morning on March 21 - it marks the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere, the point of the year when the length of day and night become almost equal. NB Check out the pic with this story - Kirk Gilmour, fantastic!

6.40am Here are some twin baby polar bears. I know. I'm overwhelmed too. I'll give you a moment.

6.38am TV NEWS: The subscription television industry has paid tribute to Charlotte Dawson with an honorary award and look back at her career at the 2014 ASTRA Awards. Beautiful.

6.36am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Girl, put some pants on! Miley Cyrus has snapped a selfie of a bruise on her butt. Enough! Pants, woman, pants!

6.35am BREAKING: Nine News is reporting that the first ship has arrived at the site of the possible debris, in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

6.34am Wollongong Botanic Gardens is holding a HUGE plant sale today & tomorrow - they're offering great deals on native species. Head in there for some advice on your garden.

6.32am Heading off to exercise this morning? Here's a little work-out funny for you.

6.30am Wowser, that thunder overhead is LOUD! Keep your pets inside & grab your brollie - the storm is a'comin'.

6.28am Our Hawks are playing tonight - and it's do or die! If you haven't got tickets yet, grab them today & support your local NBL team. I have all my fingers & toes crossed for the boys!

6.26am Wollongong's Caveau restaurant is trying out some new dishes - this tuna & baby octopus dish looks delish.

6.24am The Suicide Girls are playing at Waves tonight. Not sure if tickets are still available but check with the box office today!

6.22am SPORT: Canterbury's $850,000 per season splurge on Andrew Fifita is set to pave the way for George Burgess to become the NRL's first $1 million prop. NB Souths take on the Tigers tonight - up the Bunnies! Go boys!

6.20am Don't forget we're crossing every hour to Pulse 94.1FM with all the latest news from the Rush.

6.18am WORLD NEWS: The other big world story this morning is Oscar Pistorius - he is selling the luxury South Africa home where he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, revealing he needs the funds to cover the mounting legal fees incurred as his murder trial enters a fourth week.

6.16am CELEB NEWS: Paul Walker's mother is trying to get custody of her grand-daughter Meadow. She claims Meadow's mum is unfit. It comes months after Walker was killed in a car accident.

6.14am LOCAL NEWS: Three sisters who each battled and defeated cancer have urged the community to support this weekend’s Shellharbour Relay for Life.

6.12am MOVIE NEWS: The Little Mermaid is back - she's going to be on the big screen with a live action adaptation! Any thoughts on who should play Ariel? NB This was my FAVE Disney movie as a kid - so excited!

6.10am NATIONAL NEWS: The big news this morning is the missing Malaysian Airlines jet - the Australian-led search, 2500km south-west of Perth, finished for the night without finding any debris from MH370, nor the objects that appeared in the satellite images revealed yesterday. Click here for all the latest info on the search.

6.08am MUSIC NEWS: The Rolling Stones have rescheduled their Aus tour - they'll be back in Oct/Nov. For all the dates, click the link below.

6.06am Let's check out the national/world headlines, courtesy of the ABC

*Australian authorities say bad weather overnight has hampered efforts to locate debris which may be linked to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

*US president Barack Obama says his country is imposing new sanctions against Russian officials over the Ukraine crisis.

*Gunmen have fired shots inside a luxury hotel in Kabul.

*Tony Abbott has arrived in Port Moresby for his first visit to Papua New Guinea since becoming prime minister.

*Police have arrested a man with alleged bikie links over a fire bombing in Sydney’s northwes

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

*A Dapto GP accused of sexually assaulting a patient told police he stimulated the woman's clitoris in order to relax her, so he could carry out a proper internal examination.

*Kiama resident Tennille Shelley will join the Melanoma March in Wollongong on Sunday to help find a cure for the cancer that took her sister's life.

*The estranged boyfriend of Katie Foreman told police he wanted the Wollongong solicitor ‘‘scared’’ on the night she died in a deliberately lit fire at her Corrimal home, after she had repeatedly threatened him, a court has heard.

*A war of words has broken out over Illawarra Labor MPs’ responses to the latest round of the Resources for Regions program. Read more here.

6.02am Rise & shine peeps! Let's check out the latest weather & traffic as you're rolling out (or over!) in bed.

WEATHER We're in for another fairly warm day - it will be partly cloudy but we're set to hit 25 degrees. There will be a shower or two - as my fiancee said at 5.20 this morning: "huey is coming" ("huey" is his 3 y/o niece's name for a storm - cute huh!?) so keep your brollies handy. The weekend looks pretty similiar - temps in the mid 20s & showers. Right now, it's 17 in Albion Park and 22 in Bellambi.

TRAFFIC All is clear on the region's roads & for the run to Sydney.

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

6am Good morning! TGIF - we made it to the end of the working week, yippee! Stay with your host, Emma Spillett, this morning for all the latest news etc.

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