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

8.51am Ok, Morning Rushers I'm off to the markets. Enjoy your day - and weekend.

We'll see you on Monday morning, blogging from our new office in Market Street.

8.41am It's Friday, which means it's time to kick back and relax - perhaps with a drink or two.

If you're looking for somewhere to go tonight, may I recommend Howlin Wolf, where Wollongong's man-of-exceptional-musical-tastes Ad Hart will be spinning some records.

8.38am Is it wrong to use your own dog as the cute animal of the day?

This is Walt. He's an Italian Greyhound, not a Whippet as most people seem to believe.

He's ridiculous.

8.36am Bob Carr shenanigans continue:

8.30am Here are some of today's top stories in the Illawarra Mercury:

* The NSW government may have officially declared the Shoalhaven to be an important part of the Illawarra, but it seems many residents do not agree with the region's extended boundary lines.

* The Illawarra would be among the regions hardest hit by a proposal to charge patients who presented at emergency departments with minor ailments, Throsby MP Stephen Jones said on Thursday.

* The nimble, high-tech start-ups that will one day operate from the University of Wollongong's business incubator are almost the antithesis of the bulky, industrial environment of Port Kembla port.

Koonawarra mother Sonia Facey has sent a video essay of her autistic son, Nathan, to local and state politicians as part of a personal campaign to keep Dapto Respite Centre open.

8.22am Don't forget the Crown Street Mall Friday markets are on today - I will be heading up there to nab some fresh flowers, bread and coffee as soon as I bid Morning Rush adieu .

8.19am Tropical Cyclone Ita continues to bear down on North Queensland.

8.17am FOREMAN MURDER TRIAL

The jury in the Katie Foreman murder trial has retired to consider its verdict.

Presiding judge Justice Ian Harrison instructed jurors to begin their deliberations shortly before 2.30pm on Thursday, after issuing a final set of legal directions about the case.

Jurors have been asked to consider  whether  two people, Bradley Max Rawlinson and Michelle Sharon Proud, are guilty or innocent of the murder of Ms Foreman, who died in a deliberately lit fire  at her Corrimal home in the early hours of October 27, 2011.

They will also be able to consider the alternative charge of manslaughter for both accused.

8.15am More bad news for child protection, from the SMH:

The government department in charge of children's welfare is unable to protect the state's children, according to a scathing report by NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour, leading to calls for the sacking of minister Pru Goward.

The report into child protection, which covers Ms Goward's time as community services minister, found that 75,000 cases of reported abuse never received a face to face assessment by a caseworker.

While the figures were an improvement on three years ago, Mr Barbour found that the Department of Family and Community Services cannot cope with the number of reports it received. He was critical of the department's ability to work with police and the departments of health and education to safeguard children.

8.13am Good news in the lead up to Easter:

8.10am POLICE NEWS

Here's the latest police releases from around the state:

* Police are appealing for information after an armed robbery and attempted armed robbery at two businesses in Chipping Norton last night. About 6.55pm (Thursday 10 April 2014), a man armed with a knife entered a supermarket on the corner of Childs Avenue and Epsom Road.

* Police have arrested and charged a man after firearms were stolen during a break and enter at Warren on the weekend. During the night of Sunday 6 April 2014, a house on Canonbar Road was broken into with four firearms being stolen.

* Police have detected a driver allegedly speeding through a school zone at Canley Heights.  About 3:45pm (Wednesday 9 April 2014), officers attached to the Traffic and Highway Patrol were patrolling Cumberland Highway, when they observed a vehicle allegedly travelling at 110kph in a 40kph sign-posted zone. 

8.05am BREAKING NEWS

A man has spent 30 minutes pinned between a tram and concrete barrier in inner Melbourne.

The man in his 30s became trapped in Victoria Parade, Collingwood, just after 5am (AEST).

He was pinned for about 30 minutes until being freed with the assistance of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, an Ambulance Victoria spokesman said.

The man was treated by paramedics at the scene and did not appear to have serious injuries.

He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a stable condition. - AAP

Wake up sleepy heads - it's 8am.

TRAFFIC All clear on the Illawarra's roads now, but a snarl at Bexley and one at Haberfield if you're heading into the city.

TRAINS Going well this morning, with good service on all lines.

WEATHER A little bit of sunshine about right now, but the forecast is for showers and the chance of a storm.

It's 20.1 degrees in Bellambi, 18.7 in Albion Park and 19.4 in Kiama.

7.48am Ok, I got to nearly 8 o'clock before posting #craptaxidermy 

If you haven't already seen this Twitter account be prepared to laugh. I've looked at almost all the pics now and they still make me laugh. I think it's the captions.

7.45am LOCAL NEWS

Here are a few more of the top stories you can find in the Mercury today:

Koonawarra mother Sonia Facey has sent a video essay of her autistic son, Nathan, to local and state politicians as part of a personal campaign to keep Dapto Respite Centre open.

*  A 50-year-old Warrawong woman has been charged with defrauding the Illawarra Housing Trust of more than $15,000. The alleged offences occurred some time before August 2013, and were uncovered after a trust staff member alerted NSW Housing to "significant discrepancies" between the organisation's budgeted and actual income.

Alcohol-fuelled violence and binge drinking have been big issues, but among mid-teens, booze is on the way down. A University of NSW study has revealed more than half of 14 to 17-year-olds abstain from alcohol, compared to 33 per cent in 2001.

"A majority of teenagers are not drinking on a regular basis any more," - said director of the Centre for Health Initiatives at UOW, Professor Sandra Jones.

"Our kids are not stupid. They see news coverage of excessive drinking and violence, and don't want to be like that."

7.38am If you're wondering what to get up to this weekend, mke sure you check out our GIG GUIDE for what's on around the region.

7.35am Why getting up at 5am will make you happy:

Trust me, I did not feel at all happy to be dragging myself up at 5am this morning, but apparently morning people are happier and more successful than night owls.

Laura Vanderkam, the US author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, says getting up early can hold the key to improving your health, career and personal life.

7.32am It's Easter next weekend, which means schools around the region have been busy holding Easter Hat Parades.

Check out our cute gallery of pics here.

7.28am Wow - this is a collaboration I didn't see coming. The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne has shared a clip of Miley Cyrus working on a cover of the Beatles' A Day in the Life:

7.25am I love Wes Anderson's style and can't wait to see the Grand Budapest Hotel, but this parody clip is great.

7.22am SPORT

* As a premiership and World Cup winner, Dragons winger Brett Morris ticked off most career milestones but said a Test appearance at WIN Stadium would rank among his greatest moments.

Illawarra Academy hockey coach Gaye Tarrant believes this weekend's Academy Games will be the perfect opportunity for developing players to establish themselves at an elite level.

7.19am TRAINS and TRAFFIC

The truck breakdown on Mount Ousley is still causing some delays, according to Live Traffic and the trains still have good service on all lines.

7.15am Easter is coming and we’re running an Easter Egg Hunt. The promo will run until April 19. Easter Egg images will run in the paper - some days there may be one, other days there could be several!

Once you’ve found the image, post them in or fill out an online entry form. Entrants have the chance to win one of five $200 chocolate hampers. Yum yum!

7.12am Want to shake up your fitness routine with some Beyonce moves? Sounds awesome, but somehow I don’t think this craze has made its way to Wollongong just yet.

7.07am LOCAL NEWS  

Here's a quick look at some of the top stories in today's Mercury:

* On Thursday, UOW VC Professor Wellings joined politicians and academics to turn the first soil on the iAccelerate building's Innovation Campus site, labelling it a "landmark project" that would help counter the decline of the Illawarra's traditional manufacturing sectors.

*  A Warilla man has fronted Albion Park Local Court over child grooming allegations. Jason Mercieca is accused of contacting a 15-year-old girl online and sending her explicit images.

* The Illawarra would be among the regions hardest hit by a proposal to charge patients who presented at emergency departments with minor ailments, Throsby MP Stephen Jones said on Thursday.

* The getaway driver turned prosecution witness in the 2007 Splashes nightclub shooting has taken the stand in the Supreme Court trial of his alleged accomplices, telling jurors there was bad blood between the deceased, Dragan Sekuljica, and at least one of his accused murderers.

7.02am Look - a wiggly little piggy. Smile, it's Friday.

7am Good morning Illawarra residents, rise and shine. I can see some sun peeking through the clouds so get up now and enjoy it while you can.

It's forecast to reach 24 degrees today, with some showers and the chance of a storm.

6.55am What are you up to to this weekend? 

If you don't already have plans, this little lane way festival looks like fun:

Sunday is a day of rest, but an outdoor mini-festival will bring new noise to the city this weekend.

It is the latest event from The Farmer And The Owl, a joint project by Music Farmers and Yours & Owls. To be held in MacCabe Park off Keira Street, Melbourne band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard will headline a bill featuring The Walking Who, Miners and Day Ravies.

6.47am Bob Carr's Diary of a Foreign Minister continues to cause a ruckus, as we learn more and more about his breakfast choices and opinions about foreign leaders.

I don't know about you but I can't wait to read it! Sounds hilarious.

In the meantime, I think everyone should have a go at the Guardian's quiz: Bob Carr or American Psychos's Patrick Bateman.

6.44am TRAFFIC UPDATE

Sorry guys, didn't see this one of the live traffic map earlier. Watch out on Mount Ousley.

6.40am LOCAL NEWS

I don't know about you, but I'm more confused than ever no about exactly where it begins and ends:

The NSW government may have officially declared the Shoalhaven to be an important part of the Illawarra, but it seems many residents do not agree with the region's extended boundary lines.

Earlier this week, Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka used the launch of a new page on the government's regional website to say he had "drawn a line in the sand about the definition of the Illawarra".

However, of 463 readers who responded to a Mercury poll, more than 77 per cent rejected the decree that Nowra, Ulladulla and the beachside towns just north of Batemans Bay were now in the Illawarra.

6.35am School holidays start tomorrow! Here's a link shared by one of our South Coast journos with some ideas to keep the kids entertained.

6.31am Here's some music to get your Friday morning started on a nice note - Arcade Fire covering Blondie's Heart of Glass. 

6.28am NATIONAL NEWS

Tropical cyclone Ita has been upgraded to a category 5 system and is expected to bring 285km/h winds to north Queensland.

Cyclone Ita intensified to a category 5 system and began tracking faster towards the coast about 4pm on Thursday, with its speed increasing from 16km/h to 18km/h.

Weather forecasters predict Ita will make landfall north of Cooktown on Friday night, with 9000 people directly in its path. - BRISBANE TIMES 

6.25am Let's take a look at some of the SMH's top online stories today:

The German software developer who introduced a security flaw into an encryption protocol used by millions of websites globally says he did not insert it deliberately as some have suggested. In what appears to be his first comments to the media since the bug was uncovered, Robin Seggelmann said how the bug made its way into live code could "be explained pretty easily".

More on Heartbleed here:

* An Australian sea patrol aircraft has detected a possible black box signal in the same area where an Australian ship detected four acoustic events in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

*  Governments around the globe may have wasted billions of dollars stockpiling antiviral drugs to use against an influenza pandemic, according to a damning review drawing on previously suppressed data. Australia was one of several countries to stockpile the drugs known as Tamiflu and Relenza, believing they would reduce hospital admissions and complications of influenza, such as pneumonia, in the event of an outbreak of swine or bird flu.

6.19am LOCAL NEWS

The nimble, high-tech start-ups that will one day operate from the University of Wollongong's business incubator are almost the antithesis of the bulky, industrial environment of Port Kembla port.

Which is why, according to the university's Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings, it is so fitting the iAccelerate building is the first of 20 projects funded from the port's privatisation to get under way.

On Thursday, Professor Wellings joined politicians and academics to turn the first soil on the building's Innovation Campus site, labelling it a "landmark project" that would help counter the decline of the Illawarra's traditional manufacturing sectors.

6.15am WE'RE MOVING!

Today is the last day Mercury staff will work from our Auburn Street offices, as tomorrow all our stuff is being packed up and sent up the road to our shiny new Market Street premises.

Our new address will be Level 4, 77 Market Street and our office hours will remain 9am-5pm.

6.12am SPORT

Join Mercury league writers Tim Barrow and Mitch Jennings for their NRL preview video Kick-Off.

Every week, the Mercury sports team discusses the big issues in rugby league, as well as a wrap of St George Illawarra’s fortunes on and off the field and some bold predictions and banter along the way.

Don’t forget to send your thoughts about all the NRL drama and action in to the Mercury email sport@illawarramercury.com.au or on Twitter: follow @mercury_sports.

6.10am HEALTH NEWS

The Illawarra would be among the regions hardest hit by a proposal to charge patients who presented at emergency departments with minor ailments, Throsby MP Stephen Jones told health reporter Lisa Wachsmuth on Thursday.

The federal government is reportedly considering a plan to deter people from visiting EDs by charging them if they show up with minor complaints such as stubbed toes or common colds.

The proposal would come as part of the possible introduction of a $6 Medicare co-payment, which many believe would lead to hospital overcrowding.

However, Mr Jones said such a "patient penalty" or "hospital tax" would deter sick people from seeking medical help.

6.08am LOCAL NEWS

SPLASHES MURDER TRIAL, Sydney: The getaway driver turned prosecution witness in the 2007 Splashes nightclub shooting has taken the stand in the Supreme Court trial of his alleged accomplices, telling jurors there was bad blood between the deceased, Dragan Sekuljica, and at least one of his accused murderers.

Read more here.

6.06am WEATHER The forecast today is for showers and the chance of a storm, so not much break from yesterday's grey skies. But it's going to be a little warmer - 24 degrees is the expected top temp. 

Right now it's 19.5 degrees in Bellambi, 18.6 in Albion Park and 18.9 in Kiama.

6.04am TRAFFIC No incidents reported on Illawarra roads just yet either - let's hope it stays that way.

6.02am TRAINS Looks like there's good service on all lines right now.

6am G’day Illawarra residents and welcome to Morning Rush for Friday, April 11. I'm Kate and I'll be with you until 9am this morning.

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