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

8.58am That's it from us this morning! Have a fantastic weekend. Your usual host, Emma Spillett, will be on different duties next week so be nice to Kate Walsh as she fills in. TGIF!

8.56am NATIONAL: The Aussie dollar has hit a two-month high, extending its gains after the release of solid employment figures. In the early hours of the morning, the currency peaked at 94.39 US cents, its highest level since April 10. The total number of people with jobs fell 4,800 in May and the unemployment rate stayed steady at 5.8 per cent, official data showed yesterday. (SMH)

8.54am Stockland Shellharbour have set up Soccer Central in the store with a big screen to watch the World Cup. That's very thoughtful...

8.52am Teehee love this Happy Friday post. It's a pug!

8.50am Lower East has some scrumptious looking pumpkin soup on its lunch menu. Mmmmmmm.

8.48am BREAKING WORLD NEWS: As thousands of civilians continued to pour out of the contested city of Mosul, fleeing both the ferocious advance of Islamist militants and the feared government retaliation, Iraq launched a series of air strikes on positions in Mosul in an attempt to regain ground it had so quickly lost this week.

8.46am LOCAL SPORT: A Lake Heights father & his sons have headed off to Brazil for the World Cup. Nice! It's an Italy v Australia face-off for this family...

8.44am Have you bought your tickets for Legally Blonde yet? Get in quick, they're selling like hot cakes. Visit www.wec.org.au to book.

8.43am Keith Urban is in town! His Light the Fuse tour kicks off in Aus this weekend.

8.42am CELEB NEWS: Neil Patrick Harris is finishing up his role in Hedwig & the Angry Inch on Broadway. What will he do next?!

8.40am MOVIE NEWS: Robert Pattinton's new movie The Rover, with Guy Pearce, is out now. Check out a review here - looks good!

8.38am A little food for thought this morning...

8.36am LOCAL NEWS: A special night-time community brainstorming session will be held at Shellharbour Village Exhibition Space at the end of June as part of a community engagement campaign called Creative Shellharbour.

8.34am World Cup fever is taking over! If you're heading to the city & looking for a place to watch the soccer over a bite to eat, here's a handy guide. Enjoy.

8.32am Arrr! I found a picture of a sleeping baby goat. Awww, I want one.

8.31am Sydney is now one of the most expensive cities to visit, right behind New York & London. Great! NB Come to the Gong - much cheaper & prettier!

8.30am WORLD NEWS: The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have said the search in Portugal has given them fresh hope.

8.28am NATIONAL: The Abbott government will consider legal action to recoup more than $40 million wasted on Australia's futile bid to host the 2022 football World Cup, won by oil-rich Qatar on the back of alleged systematic bribery.

8.26am MUSIC NEWS: Coldplay are set to perform on The Voice on June 23 during their brief stint down under. Anyone got tix to their Enmore gig? Will give you my first born for them! Also, The Voice Kids premieres June 22.

8.24am Forgot your lunch? Don't fret - Alibi's kitchen is open for lunch today from 12pm. Head in for their $10 lunch specials, yum!

8.22am LOCAL NEWS: Health Infrastructure chief executive Sam Sangster is tasked with building world-class hospitals across the state, and he's got his work cut out for him in the Illawarra.

*Health reporter Lisa Waschmuth has the full report on new health infrastructure in the region.

8.20am What is it with dogs getting married this morning? First pugs, now poodles. Awww love these two, made for each other! NB if a dog can find a wedding dress, surely I can find something I like!!

8.19am Workshorts opens at the Wollongong Workshop Theatre tonight. Head to try booking.com to book seats.

8.18am WORLD NEWS: Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican presidential aspirant whose 2012 campaign was sunk partly because of verbal slips, has compared homosexuality to alcoholism, coming under fire again for an argument he has made previously.

8.16am STRANGE BUT TRUE: This is just plain WEIRD - kids in China are putting cabbages on leashes and taking them for walks. WHA? WHY?! Someone get these kids a dog!

8.14am Anyone who knows me knows I have a secret shame - I love awkward kids' pictures. Like LOVE. And some of these are just hilarious! Check them out.

8.12am On your marks, get set, GO! The Blue Mile Dash in on in Wollongong next weekend.

8.11am US politician John Kerry has met with PM Tony Abbott this morning.

8.10am Wollongong Eistedfodd is well into its singing sections - check out the latest winners & results here.

8.08am Today is National Juggling Day & National Lobster Day in the US. I'd love to see a combo of the two!

8.06am TV NEWS: The Magic School Bus is back! The children's show is getting a reboot - awesome! I LOVED the Magic School Bus - oh the adventures they would go on.

8.04am Full time in Brazil - the host nation have won 3-1 over Croatia.

8.02am POLITICS: Former US vice-president Al Gore has told Fairfax Media that “history will not be kind” to politicians who stand in the way of climate action, and he expected US President Barack Obama would raise the issue with Tony Abbott when the two leaders met this week at the White House.

8am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Glee's Lea Michele has a new man in her life after the death of BF Corey Monteith. Hello new BF & his ripped bod!

7.58am GOAL! Oscar scores for Brazil, they lead 3-1.

7.56am Good morning, TGIF! We're in for yet another partly cloudy day with a top of 20 degrees. All good on the roads & rail.

7.54am LOCAL NEWS: Hundreds of new bikes will be pedalling their way to Illawarra youth, courtesy of a nationwide program to get kids off the couch and onto bicycle saddles.

*Reporter Josh Butler has the full story + a GREAT pic by snapper Adam McLean.

7.52am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A man has been arrested in the US for allegedly stabbing his wife because ... wait for it ... she was wearing his socks!

7.50am Any takers for a night at this hotel? Clowns guaranteed a room!

7.48am The Arcadian's latest production Next to Normal opens tonight.

7.46am TECH TALK: Nintendo has announced plans to allow people to create their own Super Mario World. What!? Awesome. 1994 Emma is v excited.

7.45am 10 minutes to go & Brazil lead Croatia 2-1.

7.44am Have you been to Level One @ Harbourfront yet? It's DELISH! They've got a barramundi dish on the menu tonight that looks to die for!

7.42am WORLD NEWS: Indian police said yesterday they were investigating a spate of rapes and hangings in a troubled northern region, as the national women's rights body called for the state government to resign over the crisis.

7.38am LOCAL NEWS: A Wollongong relief teacher has appeared in court charged with twice indecently assaulting a pupil. Stephen Joseph Nedved is accused of rubbing the back of the teenage girl’s upper leg, touching her hair and thigh and telling her she was ‘‘sexy, mature and beautiful’’ while he was teaching casually at an Illawarra school in May this year.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full story here.

7.36am Brazil scored! They're now leading 2-1.

7.32am TECH TALK: Facebook will now use personal information gathered from your activities elsewhere on the web to more precisely target advertisements on the social network. Yay, more ads :(

7.31am Penalty to Brazil. Nothing in it.

7.30am MUSIC NEWS: Are Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez back together? Anyone else over this story?! Justin posted a pic of the two together on Instagram before quickly deleting it. Hmmm.

7.28am NATIONAL: Former Australian Workers Union official Bruce Wilson has denied allegations he handed former prime minister Julia Gillard wads of cash to pay for renovations at her Melbourne house in the early 1990s.

7.26am Don't forget the Dance Festival and the Rap Guide to Evolution are on at the IPAC this weekend. Busy, busy!

7.24am MOVIE NEWS: Internet pranksters have turned the first image from the coming Paddington Bear movie into a mock-horror meme. All because Paddington looks a little bit creepy. Okay, a lot creepy. Check him out here.

7.23am CELEB NEWS: Drew Barrymore has shown off pics of her new baby, little girl Frankie. Oh so cute!

7.21am 30 minutes left in World Cup Opener - Brazil & Croatia locked at 1-1.

7.20am LOCAL NEWS: Arthur Rorris has promised Bust the Budget will build "the biggest mass movements this country has ever seen". Mr Rorris, the South Coast Labour Council secretary, said a big public campaign was brewing to oppose the Abbott government's unpopular budget measures.

*Josh Butler has the full story.

7.18am NATIONAL: Young job seekers forced to wait six months for unemployment benefits will be required to apply for 40 jobs a month, document their efforts to find work and meet regularly with an employment service provider, despite not receiving any payments.

7.16am CELEB NEWS: Bill Murray is delightfully odd. This time, he's crashed a couple's engagement shoot. What the what!? Oh Bill.

7.14am In other sport news, the 16-month drugs probe into Australian sport has climaxed following the preparation of a slew of show-cause notices for players by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. 51 players are set to be issued with drugs notices.

7.12am LOCAL SPORT: Shellharbour Stingrays will take another step towards Group Seven's top competition tonight when they host their first night game at Flinders Field.

7.11am HEALTH: A Melbourne shopping centre has introduced a quiet room for children with autism. It's an Aussie first.

7.10am BREAKING: Police are investigating whether a woman who suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run in Sydney's west was deliberately run down in a car park. The 40-year-old woman was taken to Westmead Hospital with a fractured pelvis after she was struck by a vehicle that accelerated towards her in Woodcroft last night. Scary!

7.08am Check out the Aussie soccer fans in Brazil! We sure know how to party.

7.06am CELEB NEWS: British actor Rik Mayall died after suffering a sudden heart failure following a run, his widow revealed yesterday. (SMH)

7.04am MUSIC NEWS: A new doco is out celebrating the life of Alice Cooper - and he's had some pretty whacky experiences! Rock & roll does that to you, I guess! Riding in a truck, nude, except for his pet snake, for example!

7.02am LOCAL NEWS: The purchase of 590 hectares of bushland at Maddens Plains is likely to be used by Illawarra Coal to smooth the way to mine under several sensitive swamps in water catchment land at the Dendrobium mine.

*Reporter Ben Langford has the full report.

7am WORLD NEWS: Former US president George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday by skydiving. Cool! We've got the pics here.

6.58am Awwwww. I just found a black bunny that fits into the palm of your hand. Presumably if you have an average-sized hand. Anywho, oh so cute!

6.57am Good morning, TGIF! We're in for yet another partly cloudy day with a top of 20 degrees. All is fine on the region's roads - but there is an accident @ Heathcote & Kogarah if you're heading to Sydney. All is fine on the roads.

6.55am BREAKING: Actor Harrison Ford is in hospital after an accident while filming the latest Star Wars installment.

6.54am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Oh dear god no - Spanx jeans are coming. Yep, tight, tight, TIGHT jeans made from the famous shape wear fabric.

6.52am Into live music? So are we - get this week's local music news on Radar, our live music guide.

6.50am NATIONAL: Woolworths has cancelled a ''critically important'' meeting between Australian farmers and 40 international buyers, the growers' peak body claims, in retaliation for their public protest against being made to pay for a campaign starring Jamie Oliver.

6.48am Ladies, you may not be into soccer/football/whatever it's called & the World Cup - but I've got something that might entice your viewing. The chance to ogle attractive men - see examples below.

6.46am HEALTH: A new study in an online journal has shown how just one unvaccinated child started a measles outbreak in the US. V interesting reading.

6.45am It's nearly halftime & the score is still 1-1. Love a good contest!

6.44am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Rhianna has a new pad! She's rented a $64,000 per month "modern acropolis" in LA after security breaches at her home. Check it out - seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms - looks pretty sweet!

6.42am LOCAL NEWS: A drunken bet made between friends at the footy proved costly for an Oak Flats man on Thursday when he was slapped with a $5000 fine for running onto the field at Sydney's Allianz Stadium. NB best story of the morning!

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full story here.

6.40am One man. An empty Las Vegas airport. A Celine Dion ballad. Connect the dots. Watch what happened below.

6.38am LOCAL SPORT: Merc sports bods Tim Barrow & Mitch Jennings are talking all things league in this week's Kick-Off video. Watch it here.

6.36am Brazil have scored! And in the right goal! That makes it 1-1.

6.35am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Great news! If you've got a spare $1.7 million lying around, you can buy an island in Vietnam. Nice!

6.34am MUSIC NEWS: He left her about the age of 10, but now a man claiming to be Iggy Azalea's father - Brendan James Kelly - has made his presence known. Here's the full story.

6.32am WORLD NEWS: Ukraine accused Russia yesterday of allowing separatist rebels to bring three tanks and other military vehicles across the border into the east of the country to fight the Ukrainian army.

6.30am Have you been snapped out & about in the Illawarra? Check out our social pics gallery - you never know who you might spot!

6.28am Arrrrrrrrrrrr. I just found some pictures/video of two pugs getting married. GETTING MARRIED. Weeeeeee, so cute!

6.27am Today is Friday the 13th. Did you know that there is more drama on the roads on Friday the 13th? Yep, it's a statistical fact. So slow down!

6.26am NATIONAL: A Sydney man who dropped a large terracotta pot on his ‘‘defenceless’’ girlfriend’s head and then stomped on her has been sentenced to at least five years' jail. Click here for the full story.

6.25am TV NEWS: Karl Stefanovic, when will you learn?! The Today Show host tried to rap an Iggy Azalea song yesterday - and failed. EPICALLY. Watch.

6.24am LOCAL NEWS: An Illawarra man has been jailed for 13 years for the "depraved" sexual abuse of his stepdaughter for almost a decade, which included fathering her two children when she was 20.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full report here.

6.22am STRANGE BUT TRUE: It seems pitbulls in the US are misunderstood. But don't worry, the Pitbull advocacy group is trying to set the record straight. Yep - a dog advocacy group.

6.20am Disney on Ice is on at the WIN Entertainment Centre this weekend. Skate on in to see all your fave Disney characters on the ice!

6.18am And in some other world news this morning, the families of seven missing passengers on #MH370 have been given $50,000 insurance pay-outs.

6.17am WORLD NEWS: US President Barack Obama has said he would “not rule anything out” in an American response to the extremist takeover of key Iraq cities.

6.15am Our Mercury snappers have dug out the best iPhone photos of the year - and some of these are AMAZING! It's pretty cool what you can do with an iPhone & some good lighting.

6.14am Brazil just scored an own goal to go 1-0 behind in the World Cup opener.

6.13am TRAFFIC ALERT - Mt Ousley: one of two northbound lanes is blocked due to a truck breakdown. Exercise caution.

6.11am SPORT: The World Cup kicked off this morning! Prepare for bleary-eyed mornings as we get up early to watch our Aussies battle it out. J-Lo & Pitbull kicked off the opening ceremony yesterday. This morning, watch Brazil take on Croatia.

6.09am CELEB GOSS ALERT: I know I promised NOT to talk about the Kimye wedding any more but they've released new pics! And baby North is in them & she looks so sweet. Awww. Okay, I'm done.

6.06am And in national news (via the SMH):

*Corrupt former Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi has had his house swept for listening devices as the Independent Commission Against Corruption steps up its inquiries into the former state minister.

*Parts of NSW with the highest domestic violence rates will be left without specialist women's refuges under a controversial government reform that advocates say will endanger the lives of women and their children.

*The inquiry into Manus Island violence took a dramatic turn as a former young Salvation Army worker came face-to-face with Queensland Liberal Senator, Ian Macdonald.

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

*René White has been remembered as a ‘‘sensible’’ young woman who shied from the spotlight but was always reliable. René, 28, died on Tuesday in a head-on car crash on Appin Road while driving back to the Wollongong home she shared with boyfriend Glen Gulisv.

*A University of Wollongong law academic says alcohol-free zones are "unnecessary and confusing" and, in many places across the region, are signposted to mislead people into thinking they can be fined.

*State Emergency Services commissioner Murray Kear has resigned and the organisation has begun ‘‘major structural changes’’ that will force at least nine of its Wollongong-based senior staff members to reapply for their positions.

6.02am Let's kick off the morning with a weather & traffic update, shall we?

WEATHER We're in for yet another partly cloudy day with a top of 20 degrees. There will be some patchy fog this morning & some patchy rain throughout the day. Expect more cloud & rain over the weekend - we're in for a top of 19 tomorrow & 16 on Sunday. Winter is well & truly here :( 

TRAFFIC All looks fine for the drive around town & for the run to Sydney.

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

6am Good morning Illawarra & TGIF! Yep, it's Friday - we made it to the end of the week. Phew! Stay with your host, Emma Spillett, this morning for all the latest news et al.

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