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

8.55am That's it for the Rush this morning. Catch you tomorrow for the latest headlines and online buzz.

8.52am SPORT NEWS American Bubba Watson is the 2014 Masters champion.

8.49am I know there has already been a cute animal pic this morning, but this is gorgeous - animal best friends. All together now - awwww.

8.45am It's all happening this morning at Merc HQ. We've moved offices over the weekend and everything has gone smoothly. You can find us on Market Street, in the AHM building.

8.41am Getting a headstart for plans on your upcoming four-day weekend? On Sunday, the llawarra’s Easter Funday is on at the Pavilion in Kiama from 10am to 4pm. There are market stalls, rides, show bags and carnival food.

8.37am  A US university offers a course called Mad Men: Media, Gender, Historiography. Um, awesome. Have a read of the subject coordinator's account of the semester here

8.34am LOCAL NEWS High concentrations of copper, zinc and lead from stormwater and past industrial dumping in Port Kembla, Botany Bay and Port Jackson are making rock oysters infertile, University of NSW scientists say.

8.30am Legally Blonde is coming. Moonglow Productions is set to stage the musical for the first time in Wollongong on July 4-5 at the WIN Entertainment Centre. 

8.27am NATIONAL NEWS The latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll has found voters do not want changes made to the Racial Discrimination Act.

The poll specifically asked voters if they believe it should it be lawful or unlawful to "offend, insult or humiliate" somebody based on their race.

The answer was a statistically conclusive 88 per cent - or nine out of 10 - in favour of the status quo - that is, that it should remain unlawful to discriminate.

Attorney General George Brandis: Has been pursuing the removal of the provisions in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act with the Prime Minister. SMH

8.23am Pope Francis indulged the crowd with a few selfies during Pal Sunday services

8.19am Easter is coming and we’re running an Easter Egg Hunt. The promo will run from April 1 to 19. 20 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.

8.15am Perth's Tim Minchin will direct an animated musical comedy set in the Australian outback for Dreamworks.

The screenplay is called Larrikins and the details revealed so far - that the voice cast may include Jacki Weaver and Rebel Wilson and it the script includes songs written by Minchin - make it sound awesome. 

8.10am In the mood for a longer read while you eat your Weetbix? Take a look at this piece on the Wollongong’s Science Centre and Planetarium and its founder, Glen Moore, who recently retired. 

8.06am CELEB NEWS More wedding announcements this morning - Nick Carter, of Backstreet Boys fame, also tied the knot last week. My 10-year-old self is devastated.

8.03am TIARA ALERT Rumours Prince William and Kate could be expecting another bub have been quashed after the Duchess had a little tipple and had a go on the heart-stopping Shotover Jet ride in Queenstown during the couple's NZ tour.

It's 8am, definitely time to be out of bed if you're on your way to work today.

All still good on the roads between Nowra and the city this morning, there's good service on the South Coast train line and it's about 16 degrees outside.

7.55am LOCAL NEWS Wollongong youth worker Arif Khan has received a national award for his support of young refugees and work with Wollongong City Council.

7.52am CELEB NEWS One of my favourite celebrity couples, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, were married over the weekend. No official pics yet, so let's pretend they dressed as their characters Prince Charming and Snow White from the TV show Once Upon A Time and had a fairytale-themed wedding.

7.49am NATIONAL NEWS Sixteen elderly people have been forced to leave their Port Melbourne building overnight after four fires were deliberately lit inside. MFB spokesman Trevor Woodward said four fires were set in common areas in the three-storey elderly

+sidential complex. No one was hurt, Mr Woodward said. Police are investigating. AAP

7.45am In the spirit of impending Easter, today's cute animal is a bunny.

7.42am The death by chocolate beer dinner is on at Little Prince tomorrow night. That basically just sounds delicious.

7.38am Speaking of Star Wars, Peter Mayhew, the actor that played Chewie was in Australia last week for the Supanova fan convention AND he can talk in more than growling syllables. 

7.34am Harrison Ford did an Ask Me Anything post on Reddit and talked all things Star Wars, Blade Runner and Indiana Jones. Have a look at the best bits

7.30am LOCAL SPORT NEWS After three successful years the Illawarra said goodbye to the Academy Games in style at the weekend.

Wild weather initially put competition at risk, but skies cleared to allow for all seven sports to take place between Wollongong and the Shoalhaven.

7.24am Strictly Ballroom the Musical has "a tendency to milk applause rather than earn it" according to the SMH review of Baz Luhrmann's latest project. Has anyone else seen it yet? Thoughts?

7.20am Arcadians is set to launch a quest to find a new Phantom of the Opera. Auditions will be held from April 28 to May 1. For more information, visit www.arcadians.org.au

7.16am Today is Dolphin Day, as well as Look Up At The Sky Day. Hopefully it doesn't rain.

7.12am WORLD NEWS A woman who underwent fertility treatment at a clinic in Rome became pregnant with the twins of another couple after their embryos were mixed up.

Italy's Health Ministry said it was launching an investigation into the error, which was only discovered when the woman was three months' pregnant. SMH

7.09am TIARA ALERT The Duchess of Cambridge has been applauded for "recycling" her outfits on her NZ tour, wearing a jeans and blazer combo she has been seen in TWICE in the past year. Or, you know, as I call it, doing what everyone else does every day.

7.05am The Jamberoo community celebrated the official re-opening of Fredericks IGA on Saturday, more than a year after the original shop was destroyed by a fire.

It took a dramatic turn when bushrangers made off with bags of cash and took two employees hostage, but I think they were just caught up in the excitement of the day.

Check out the photos here.

Rise and shine everyone it's 7am.

Everything is still looking good on the roads this morning, but no doubt there will be some school holiday traffic around today.

Right now, it's 16 degrees in Wollongong.

6.55am There were a stack of creepy crawlies at the Illawarra Reptile Show on Sunday. The thought of lovingly embracing a snake or lizard gives me the heebies, but these kids loved it. Check out our gallery here.

6.51am TV GOSS The Biggest Loser finale aired last night, with winner Craig Booby shedding 79.8 kilograms. That is a whole heap of weight, equivalent to two or three small children I will guess. Or, as the SMH put it, half the size of a small tapir.

A quick Google indicates a tapir is  "a large herbivorous mammal, similar in shape to a pig, with a short, prehensile snout. Tapirs inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia." 

6.47am It is pretty cute

6.43am Opera on the Harbour is set to continue for at least another three years, after Dr Haruhisa Handa, who funded the last three performances, committed to funding more

The NSW Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Arts, George Souris, made the announcement on Sunday night after the last curtain call for this season's final performance of Madama Butterfly. SMH

6.38am 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.

6.34am WORLD NEWS At least 16 people are confirmed dead and more than 10,000 have been evacuated after a huge fire tore through Chile's historic port city of Valparaiso.

The fire began on Saturday in a forest on one of the city's many steep, heavily populated hills. SMH

6.30am Possible plans to increase the pension age to 70 drew a heated response from our readers over the weekend.

John Beatty, a 67-year-old retired Port Kembla wharfie said he had been affected by years of manual labour and could not have continued working beyond his retirement.

6.25am If you are celebrating your birthday today, you share your party with actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, actor Robert Carlyle and the new Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi.

6.21am That said, today is the first day of the Easter school holidays? Are the kids awake yet and full of beans, or have been able to enjoy a bit of a sleep-in?

6.18am NSW primary schools are banning loom bands, the latest trend to capture imaginations of schoolchildren.

Several schools across the state have written to parents to stop students wearing, trading and selling the brightly coloured woven bands at school.

Most commentors on our Facebook page think the bands are a bit of harmless fun. What do you think?

6.14am In the mood for a bit of sport over breakfast? The SMH has a live blog of the final round of the US Masters.

6.11am The Mercury was busy over the weekend, moving our office into a brand new office. We're now located on Market Street, in the AHM building.

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

*A record high vote of support for the Greens and a slump in support for the Coalition in regional Australia has left Tony Abbott's seven-month old government trailing Labor by four points after preferences.

*The CSIRO, Australia’s peak science body, is bracing for a May budget cut of up $150 million, or more than 20 per cent of its total government funding of $757 million a year.

*The number of young people facing long-term unemployment has tripled since the global financial crisis, according to a new analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

There are currently 257,000 unemployed young people (aged 15 to 24) across the nation.

*A merger of the ABC and the SBS would be “wrong in principle, bad economics, and even worse politics”, according to  Joseph Skrzynski, whose five-year term as SBS chairman ended last month.

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

*Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has said the council will not bow down to a campaign to rezone 18 hectares of industrial land at Kembla Grange, despite a new social media push to allow the change to go ahead.

* A 39-year-old man was arrested in Dapto on Saturday night after allegedly spiking his wife’s drink at a licensed premises.

*Wollongong councillors painted a dystopian picture of the region's future as they debated coal seam gas last week, warning that lush fields could become barren wastelands.

In a passionate speech, which drew applause from the public gallery, Greens councillor George Takacs said there should be no further exploration of coal seam gas reserves.

*Illawarra couple Alan and Betty Farmilo marked the latest milestone in a relationship that has spanned more than 70 years, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary last week.

6.02am Let’s take a look at what’s happening on the roads and in the skies this morning

WEATHER Partly cloudy today across the Illawarra, with top temps of about 20 degrees and possibly a few showers on the coast. Right now its 14.3 degrees.

TRAFFIC It’s a clear run from Nowra to Sydney this morning, with the exception of ongoing roadworks at Gerringong and the top of Mount Ousley.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

6am Happy Monday! Welcome to today's edition of the Morning Rush.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop