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

8.59am That's it from us this morning. I promise a less frazzled Morning Rush tomorrow! Enjoy your Thursday - catch ya tomorrow.

8.57am The Little Prince is hosting a dark ages beer dinner on July 8. Five courses of hearty, medieval inspired grub, including spit roast suckling pig! Awesome! Ring the bar to book. $65 per head.

8.56am Ha! Another great cat pic - anyone experienced this with their own kitties? Why do they love toilet paper?

8.54am A little history quiz this morning - Wollongong once had a jail but it was closed in 1915. Where was it located?

8.53am POLITICS: Tony Abbott is considering an unprecedented Americanisation of the school education system with radical changes that could see HECS-style fees introduced into new continuous school-and post school diplomas, and private industry playing a heavy role in course design and production.

8.52am The development application for Shellharbour City Council's controversial $57 million Shellharbour City Hub project goes on public exhibition today with submissions invited until July 2. The plans can be viewed at the council's website in the "on public exhibition" section.

8.50am Aww, a really cute story from Blacktown Police. Three kittens left at the station over the long weekend have found new homes. Adorable.

8.48am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Another one from the "only in America" files - an aunt set up a fake Facebook account to befriend her niece. The niece then asked her "new friend" to kill her aunt. Oopsie.

8.46am LOCAL NEWS: The South Coast Public Schools Dance Festival is set to take over the IPAC this weekend. We've got some great pics, courtesy of snapper Kirk Gilmour, of the kids in action yesterday.

8.44am  NATIONAL: Joe Hockey says there are encouraging signs on the jobs front, despite other measures of economic activity taking a battering after his first budget. The treasurer said this morning he was looking forward to ‘‘hopefully’’ some good employment news when jobs figures were released later today. ‘‘We were told that we were going to inherit unemployment rises of 6.25 per cent,’’ Mr Hockey told ABC radio.‘‘So far it is remaining below six per cent and that is very encouraging,’’ he said. Economists have predicted a slight rise in the jobless rate when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases its latest unemployment data at 11.30am. (AAP)

8.42am MOVIE NEWS: The Lion King - so beloved by fans. SO beloved, in fact, it is set to be turned into a TV movie & series. Cool!

8.40am WORLD NEWS: 16 people have been killed in an attack by a suicide bomber in Baghdad.

8.39am I'm back!

8.31am Because we haven't had enough interruptions this morning, I now have to move my car :( I'm sorry loyal followers!!!! BRB.

8.30am LOCAL NEWS: Jamberoo teen Connor Jarrold is preparing to board a plane to Canada next week, with his talents on a scooter responsible for getting him to the land of moose and maple leaf.

*Josh Butler has the full report, plus some pretty sweet pics & video.

8.29am Working in an office inevitably brings birthday cake, lollies & biscuits, which equals weight gain. Here's some tips on how to take control of your office food habits.

8.26am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Beyonce & Gywneth Paltrow are off on a yoga retreat together - here's to a weekend of meditation, long walks & local wine.

8.25am A fisherman found dead on the banks of the Thredbo River in the Snowy Mountains may have slipped or collapsed, police say. They say the man, who is thought to be in his 60s, was discovered by bushwalkers along the river, about 10km from Jindabyne, on Wednesday afternoon. Police believe the man is from the Jindabyne area and are trying to notify his family. They do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident. A report will be prepared for the coroner. (AAP)

8.24am STRANGE BUT TRUE: I am just PUMPING these out this morning - there are Lego thieves on the loose. Yep, you read right. A series of break-ins at toy stores targeting Lego has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars worth of the popular toy swiped from stores across the country. Guard your blocks, a Lego bandit is out there!

8.22am Okay, so I don't like birds (actually I'm scared, no, TERRIFIED of birds) but these pics of baby owls are pretty darn cute.

8.21am The Rap Guide to Evolution is on at the IPAC this weekend. The show has had rave reviews - check out what all the fuss is about here.

8.20am Today is Hug a Climate Scientist Day!

8.19am BREAKING: A 26-year-old man has died in a mining accident in central western NSW. The man, believed to be from Victoria, was working underground at the CSA Copper Mine in Cobar about 11.15pm yesterday when he became trapped in a pipe. A NSW Police spokesman said the man was believed to be trying to dislodge debris from the pipe, which was attached to a piece of machinery, when "something went horribly wrong".

8.18am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Kids love show & tell - their pet rock, some Lego but how about a grenade? Yep, a kid in the US bought a grenade to school for show & tell. Mum has since been arrested.

8.16am LOCAL SPORT: NSW enforcer Greg Bird has tipped rookie centre Josh Dugan to crack open State of Origin for the Blues and to help finally end Queensland's dominance. Origin II is on next Wednesday night.

8.14am You can't have a World Cup without anthems. Who can forget Ricky Martin's Cup of Life (my personal favourite). Here's a list of some of the best over the years - way better than this World Cup's offering by Pitbull. Urgh.

8.13am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A woman who shot a missile into a car in the US has a truly hilarious name - Crystal Metheney. Get it?

8.12am NATIONAL: Federal budget cuts have crippled a campaign to stamp out sweatshops and exploitation in Australia’s fashion supply chains, after the industry’s only ethical compliance body was stripped of funding.

8.10am LOCAL NEWS: Some people in the Illawarra are still affected by Tuesday's retune of ABC and SBS. The federal government's department of communications said a temporary technical issue had reduced operating levels.

-Read the full story here.

8.08am CELEB NEWS: The Melanie Griffiths/Antonio Banderas split is even more tricky than originally thought - she's got a giant tattoo of his name on her arm! Ouchy - removing that is going to hurt.

8.06am Sorry all, more computer dramas!

7.58am Good morning! If you're just tuning in, welcome! We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 19 degrees. There is an accident on Springhill Rd @ Masters Rd in Figtree - one northbound lane is closed. Allow extra travel time. Otherwise, all good around town & heading to Sydney. All good on the trains too.

7.56am Teeheehee, this animal picture is very clever, I love it!

7.54am Budding travellers, I have good news - I have just found a very handy guide onhow to order "one beer please" all around the world! Una birra, per favore! (that's Italian!)

7.52am Can you believe it has been 50 years since The Beatles embarked on their first Australian tour? Wow!

7.50am BREAKING: Abody has been discovered so badly burnt in a backyard shed behind a suburban Brisbane house, its gender is still being determined. Other people were in the adjacent house at the time, but it’s still unknown why the body, believed to be that of a man, was in the shed. Fire crews were alerted to the blaze at Mount Gravatt during the early hours of this morning. Police forensic investigators are still to determine the cause of the fire. (AAP)

7.48am WORLD NEWS: J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has joined the battle to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, donating $US1.6 million to the cause and writing a lengthy plea on her website for votes against Scottish independence.

7.46am LOCAL NEWS: A Warilla man has admitted to lighting a series of bushfires in Helensburgh last summer. Kenneth Bellette, 45, pleaded guilty to intentionally causing a fire and being reckless to its spread in Wollongong Local Court yesterday.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full report.

7.44am SPORT: Both Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic have suffered losses in the second round of The Queens Club in the UK.

7.42am Holy freaking crap, I have just found a video of a cat playing a keyboard. In some sort of blue tracksuit. I have no words.

7.40am Crocodile Dundee is coming to Wollongong! Yep, Paul Hogan is touring with a one-man show, offering stand-up comedy, stories & unseen video clips. He'll be in the Gong on July 26 at the Town Hall. Tickets go on-sale next Wednesday.

7.38am LOCAL SPORT: Three Wollongong Rollerhawks stars have been included in a 12-man squad to defend Australia’s title at the world championships in South Korea.

7.36am Love truffles? The mushrooms, not the chocolates - here's some places in the big smoke to get your fix. NB would LOVE to know Illawarra eateries with truffles on the menu!

7.34am STRANGE BUT TRUE: An English woman is in intensive care after falling more than 15 metres from her hotel window while sleepwalking during a family holiday in Spain. (Channel Nine)

7.32am MOVIE NEWS: Novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is going to be made into a film. Lily Collins is set to star in the adaptation. Cool! If you haven't read the book, get a copy now & devour it - HILARIOUS!

7.30am TIARA ALERT: Prince Harry’s ex, Cressida Bonas, now has Hollywood, instead of the House of Windsor, in her sights. The 24-year-old, who split with Harry in April, has been cast in Harvey Weinstein’s new film Tulip Fever, a period drama set in the 1600s. Hello! magazine reports that Bonas will play a merchant’s wife alongside Dame Judi Dench, Christopher Waltz and Glee’s Matthew Morrison.

7.28am WORLD NEWS: A Syrian woman has survived a 700-day blockade, eating plants & reading books in her home. She now weighs just 38 kilograms, even after gaining four kilograms since the blockade ended in early May. Amazing.

7.26am LOCAL NEWS: Shellharbour City Council's 2014-15 budget has been endorsed but not without some councillors slamming their lack of input into the process.

*Alex Arnold has the full report.

7.24am MOVIE NEWS: Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum have walked the red carpet for their new film 22 Jump Street - the sequel to their 21 Jump Street remake. NB the original is actually really funny - I'm looking forward to the next one!

7.23am A little joke for your Thursday morning: What do you call a country made up entirely of spotted dogs? A Dalnation. HA!

7.20am STRANGE BUT TRUE: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has suggested that football could one day be played on other planets when he made his opening address to delegates at the start of its 64th Congress on Wednesday. NB wha?! Who comes up with this stuff!?

7.19am CELEB NEWS: Former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland is pregnant! And she announced her pregnancy in the sweetest way. Awww.

7.17am The Jam n Bread Hispanic & Latino Fiesta is on this weekend. Head to Port Kembla Community Centre for some cool tunes. Here's all the deets on the event.

7.15am NATIONAL: Shifting climate patterns in the Indian Ocean driven by global warming are likely to increase the frequency of “devastating” weather events for much of Australia, Indonesia and eastern Africa, a study led by Australian researchers has found. Click here for more information - very interesting read.

7.14am Looking for a fun night out? The Social is hosting Fiesta Thursdays, serving up a range of sangria specials to go with tasty $5 tapas plates. You can also head there for an after-work drink every Tuesday to Friday - enjoy $5 house beer & wine from 5pm to 7pm.

7.12am CELEB NEWS: Things are a little tense between Kanye West & Jay Z - Kanye dissed Jay Z last week - and it was all captured on film. Oopsie!

7.10am Oh cat videos, you make my life. This is a video of a cat jumping on a girl's head & then hanging around while she brushes her teeth. Hehe. Too funny!

7.08am LOCAL NEWS: Berkeley woman Wendy Evans has failed in a bid to get a separate sentencing hearing from her two co-offenders over the murder of Wollongong lawyer Katie Foreman almost three years ago.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full story here.

7.07am MUSIC NEWS: Angels frontman Doc Neeson has been farewelled by friends and family at a private funeral. His friend and publicist Catherine Swinton said family members held a private funeral yesterday. A public memorial will be held at a later date. (SMH)

7.05am BREAKING: Victorian MP Geoff Shaw has been suspended from parliament for 11 sitting days for misusing parliamentary entitlements.

7.04am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A man was duped into making multiple cash withdrawals and handing the money over to two conmen in the belief he was going to win the lottery, Sydney police will allege. Read the full story here.

7.02am WORLD NEWS: The average number of school shootings in America is now 1.34 per week. PER WEEK. That is scary! Bring on gun reform, I say.

7am An artists’ talk is on @ Wollongong Art Gallery today. Artists from the Make it Sew! exhibition will talk about their work. The exhibition is on until August 24.

6.58am HEALTH: An eight-year-old English girl, diagnosed with terminal brain cancer three years ago, has become the first person in the world to beat the illness.

6.56am Good morning! If you're just tuning in, welcome! We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 19 degrees. All is fine on the region's roads & for the drive to Sydney. All good on the trains too.

6.54am The Wollongong Eistedfodd has been keeping the region's budding musicians busy. Check out all the results & coverage here.

6.52am MOVIE NEWS: The trailer for Dumb & Dumber To (yep really) is out. And it looks pretty funny. Although I can't watch Jeff Daniels any more without thinking about him in Newsroom. Oh so good!

6.50am NATIONAL: Fundamental differences over climate-change policy continue to hamper Tony Abbott's capacity to build links in the US as both President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon want more support from Australia for international action on carbon dioxide emissions.

6.48am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A Melbourne restaurateur has been fined $335,000 for paying workers in discounted pizza & drinks. Yuh think!?

6.47am A community dog walk is on June 22 @ McCauley's Beach to raise money for the Wollongong Animal Rescue Network. Bring your pet & a gold coin.

6.46am SPORT: The World Cup kicks off in Brazil tomorrow - yippee, here's to early mornings of soccer! The SMH has a great guide of all the games to stay up/get up for. NB Aus plays the Netherlands on June 19.

6.44am Today is Russia Day, the national holiday of Russian Federation. It's also National Peanut Butter Cookie day in the US.

6.43am LOCAL NEWS: Member for Heathcote Lee Evans says money from the government's proposed power assets sell-off could be used to fund a separating barrier on Appin Road. His comment came less than a day after a 28-year-old woman was killed and a 67-year-old woman was seriously injured in a head-on car crash on the road.

*Reporter Dominic Geiger has the full story here.

6.42am NATIONAL: Australian homes are among the most expensive in the world when household incomes and rents are taken into account, International Monetary Fund figures show. Yay!

6.40am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A man has spent $26,000 turning his New York apartment into an '80s style arcade - only to have his fiancee say ta-ta & end the relationship as a result. Ouch!

6.38am LOCAL SPORT: Benji Marshall is imploring St George Illawarra to call off the hunt for its new coach, claiming caretaker Paul McGregor could "carry the club through the next 10 years".

6.37am CELEB NEWS: Even celebrities sell stuff on Ebay - Kim Kardashian has offloaded some of her old clothes on Ebay and some of the items still have tags on them.

6.36am In some sad news this morning, the author of the Spot the Dog series, Eric Hill, has died. He was 86. NB I LOVED those books - Spot had some great adventures. He was one cool puppy.

6.34am The Heart Foundation is urging people to ditch the winter greys and break out some bright red – all in the name of a good cause. Go red this June and help the Heart Foundation beat heart disease. Hold a Go Red fundraiser & raise some cash!

6.33am WORLD NEWS: A crew of New York City strippers scammed wealthy men by spiking their drinks with illegal synthetic drugs, then driving them to strip clubs that ran up tens of thousands of dollars on their credit cards while they were too wasted to stop it, authorities said on Wednesday.

6.32am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher have decided to postpone their nuptials until after their baby is born. They've just bought a $10 million mansion in Beverly Hills so they've got a bit going on. Fair call.

6.30am SPORT: Martina Hingis is returning to play at Wimbledon for the first time in seven years.

6.28am Tony Abbott has touched down in Washington & shared a work-out with Hugh Jackman. As you do.

6.27am STRANGE BUT TRUE: There are some things that are weird that we just don't think are weird. Like balloons - "happy birthday, here's a plastic sack of my breath." Ha! Never thought about that before! Here's some other weird things.

6.24am LOCAL NEWS: The manager of Port Kembla Community Project, Jenny Briscoe-Hough, has been the driving force behind Tender Funerals, a proposed social enterprise to provide low-cost funeral services, alternative ceremonies, and education on the rights and options around death.

-Reporter Josh Butler has the full story here.

6.22am Lorenzo's Bar in Wollongong has launched a $15 pasta lunch special - and it looks delish! It's available today from 12pm.

6.21am NATIONAL: Defence is investigating fresh claims of sexual hazing rituals aboard a Navy warship. In a statement released late on Wednesday, Defence announced that an “instance from several years ago was brought to light” recently and is being investigated by military police.

6.20am I love this cat picture this morning - this poor little kitty just wanted his blanket back. Awww. It's like our dog & his beloved beanbag.

6.18am TV NEWS: There are some die-hard Neighbours fans out there - like scary. They have recorded all the historical inconsistencies in the show including birthdays & ages. Check out some of the biggest clangers here.

6.16am WORLD NEWS: The trial of Rolf Harris has been unexpectedly delayed just as it was drawing to a conclusion. Defence lawyer Sonia Woodley QC was meant to make her closing speech on Wednesday but was too unwell to appear in court. Get the latest on the trial here.

6.15am CELEB NEWS: The brother of 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, who was injured in a car accident over the weekend, says the family are praying for his recovery. He is still in a critical condition.

6.12am And in national news (via the SMH)

*Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the new public face of Woolworths, is in a bit of a pickle.

*Joe Hockey has lashed out at critics of his first budget, saying claims his policies are ‘‘unfair’’ were reminiscent of ‘‘class warfare’’ from the 1970s.

*A key measure announced by Premier Mike Baird to allay fears that power bills would rise under his plan for the $20bn partial privatisation of the state’s electricity network, would save the average household as little as $9 a year.

*Young Australians are more likely to survive infancy and are improving at school, but they are getting fatter and suffering greater rates of abuse and neglect, according to a snapshot of child health and well-being.

6.10am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*NSW premier Mike Baird was in town yesterday - and he went go-karting. Check out the video & pics here.

*An Illawarra entrant on the Nine Network’s talent show The Voice, says she was exploited, left open to vicious cyber-bullying, then discarded “like a used tissue” after her performance aired.

*Key NSW government agencies have issued scathing comments on a plan to quadruple the capacity of Port Kembla's outer harbour, saying it lacks adequate detail about traffic, rail infrastructure, and noise and air pollution.

*A former Sydney prisoner broke down while giving a harrowing account of finding her heroin-addicted cellmate dead against a wall. Tracy Lee Brannigan, of Wollongong, died of an overdose inside her "high needs" cell at Dillwynia Women's Correctional Centre, on Sydney's outskirts.

6.08am Let's check out the weather & traffic, shall we? 

WEATHER We're in for another partly cloudy day with a top of 19 degrees. Right now, it's 8 degrees at Albion Park & 14 at Bellambi.

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

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

6.05am Good morning Illawarra! Apologies for the slightly delayed start this morning - I've got MAJOR technical problems :(

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