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

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8.30am That's it from us this morning. Have a fantastic long weekend. They'll be no Rush on Monday (I know, I'm sad too) but we'll be back bright & early on Tuesday. Ciao!

8.20am STRANGE BUT (MAYBE) TRUE: There are fresh claims this morning that Tutankhamun's beard was accidentally snapped off by curators who used super glue to cover the mishap. Ha!

8.18am Today is the perfect day to grab the kids & take them to the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. So much to see, so many beautiful blooms. Take a picnic and enjoy the sunshine #jealous #wishihadholidays

8.16am HEALTH: Tony Abbott has signalled the government will not block an expected rise in private health insurance premiums, saying it is up to the market to set the price. Read more.

8.14am Okay, so I don't usually use Rush to spruik big businesses but I'm making an exception for THESE Peter Alexander PJs. They're Barbie & Ken-themed, OMG, too ADORABLE!!!!!

8.12am Another year, another set of silly plastic surgery trends. Click here for the latest procedures gaining momentum - anyone for thigh gap therapy?!

8.10am LOCAL NEWS: University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings has backed calls for changes to higher education reforms as Senate crossbenchers threaten to block the legislation.

*Education reporter Brianna Parkins has the story.

8.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Um what, Lady Gaga & Adele are friends!? Looks like the ladies hang out, according to this snap posted by Gaga on FB.

8.06am Awww, look at this proud mama dog. That's a LOT of puppies!

8.04am WA: A man has been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay reparations of more than $48,500 for disrupting a Sydney-bound Virgin flight, forcing the plane back to Perth. Read more.

8.02am Don't forget Kiama Show is on this weekend.

8am A little weekend mantra for you.

7.58am Good morning! Welcome if you're just tuning in. We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. All good on the roads & rail.

7.56am LOCAL NEWS: NSW Premier Mike Baird put his foot down during a visit to the Illawarra on Thursday - to turn the first sod on the $580 million Foxground and Berry Princes Highway bypass.

*Politics reporter Andrew Pearson has the story.

7.54am As You Like It opens on the McKinnon Lawn at UOW tonight. Fingers crossed for a rain-free season!

7.52am TIARA ALERT: Does Prince Harry have a new girlfriend!? Reports are swirling that he's dating model Anastasia Guseva.

7.50am TECH TALK: Stan, the latest player on the Australian streaming media arena, has confirmed it is to launch on Australia Day. The video-on-demand service, a joint venture between Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax Media will offer subscribers unlimited access to its library of television series and movies for $10 per month with a 30-day free trial.

7.48am WORLD NEWS: It's now been four months and there's still no sign of MH370. There's calls now for expressions of interest to continue the search.

7.38am NSW: The children of a tradesman questioned over the disappearance of toddler William Tyrell say they love him and are certain he has done nothing wrong. Read more.

7.34am STRANGE BUT TRUE: So it turns out McDonalds fries contain potatoes! Oh, and 18 OTHER INGREDIENTS. Ewwww. But they're so delicious.

7.32am The Maldives is home to the world's best hotel, according to Trip Adviser. One night at the Gili Lankanfushi will set you back $1900. Ouch.

7.30am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Singer David Campbell introduced his new twins to their famous grandad - Jimmy Barnes - yesterday. Looks like little Betty gave the meeting a thumbs-up!

7.28am Looking for some quality Aus Day eats? You've got to have lamingtons & a sausage sizzle. If you're keen to dine out in Sydney, here's some ideas.

7.26am WORLD NEWS: Citing unchecked climate change and the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, scientists yesterday moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight. NB that's uplifting!

7.24am Ah physical culture. That sport where little girls wear leotards & stretch and be flexible (shows my extensive knowledge!). Well apparently it's not just for kids - adults are really digging it too. Click here to find out why.



7.22am QLD: The man charged with the double murder of a Gold Coast couple, which orphaned their five-year-old son, is the woman's ex-husband.

7.20am I love this story - this 86-year-old retiree lives on a cruise ship (to the tune of $200,000 per year - phew). Good on her, life's too short!

7.16am NATIONAL: Penalty rates, the minimum wage and the workplace flexibility of 11.5 million Australian workers will come under the microscope in a sweeping review of the industrial relations system. Read more.

7.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kylie Minogue posted a photo of ex-boyfriend Michael Hutchence on Instagram yesterday, on what would have been his 50th birthday. So sad.

7.12am LOCAL NEWS: Main round university offers dropped by more then 4000 places across the state in 2015, with universities opting to secure prospective students in early round offers.

*Education reporter Brianna Parkins has the story.

7.10am Ex-Guantanamo detainee David Hicks is likely to have his terrorism conviction overturned. The ruling is expected next month.

7.08am Looking for something to do tonight? Don't forget the Grease sing-a-long is on at the Wollongong Sunset Cinema.

7.06am WORLD NEWS: Indonesian divers yesterday found six bodies near the fuselage of an AirAsia jet that crashed last month into the Java Sea, but were unable to enter the wreckage where most of the victims are believed to be trapped, a navy official said. (SMH)

7.04am MOVIE NEWS: Bradley Cooper has revealed how he stacked on 18kgs for American Sniper. He'd eat 6000 calories a day. Yuck! Read more.

7.02am Don't forget double demerits kick off at midnight tonight & last until Monday night. Stay safe on the roads!

7am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Did Miley Cyrus get a boob job? Rumours are swirling that the Wrecking Ball singer may have, um, expanded her chest. Surgically.

6.58am Good morning! Welcome if you're just tuning in. We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. All good on the roads & rail.

6.56am SPORT: Check out Tim Cahill's AMAZING goal in the soccer last night - incredible! The goal sent Australia through to the semi-finals of the Asia World Cup.

6.54am Don't forget Little Shop of Horrors is on at the IPAC this weekend. Get your tickets, don't miss the giant man-eating plant!

6.52am A little office funny for your Friday.

6.50am LOCAL NEWS: A long-running dispute between two Illawarra women took a horrifying and rather putrid turn earlier this month when one threw a bucket of compost containing excrement at the other.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the (gross) story.

6.48am Kids say the darndest things, don't they!? Check out these love notes from children. The first one - a response to the simple "do you like me?" question - is CLASSIC!

6.46am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Will Ferrell surprised basketball fans by throwing a half-court shot directly at a cheerleader's head during halftime at the LA Lakers game this week. But it's all good - it was for a movie!

6.44am NSW: Former NSW detectives Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara - charged with the murder of university student Jamie Gow - will stand trial in the Supreme Court after waiving their right to a committal hearing. (SMH)

6.42am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A Wayne's World-inspired bar is set to open in Kings Cross for five weeks in February. Dude!?

6.40am Anybody else struggling with freezing office syndrome? Seriously - it might be 30 degrees outside, doesn't mean it has to be -4 in the office. The struggle is real.

6.38am Heading to the US? You might want to get some American moula now - the Aussie dollar could be spending its last days above US80¢. Read more. 

6.36am LOCAL SPORT: Good luck to the Hawks tonight as they take on Adelaide. Larry Davidson is set to mark his 200th game with the Hawks. Nice!

6.34am Love Nutella? Then I have good news for you! The team @ Good Food have put together a lovely list of top spots to enjoy Nutella desserts in Sydney. Nutella bomb anybody!? NB I'm not into Nutella but I know a LOT of people who are. Consider this my Friday gift...

6.30am WORLD NEWS: US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that Islamic State's momentum in Iraq had been halted or reversed and that US weapons for government forces would be arriving very shortly.

6.28am Don't forget it's Australia Day on Monday. Have you got plans? There's heaps of stuff on at Belmore Basin in Wollongong & around Shellharbour & Kiama too. Many local restaurants are doing special events too.

6.26am In some other celebrity news this morning, Lindsay Lohan has just been released from hospital after contracting a very rare virus.

6.24am NATIONAL: Australian jihadists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar have been accused of enslaving and raping women from the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq. Read more.

6.22am Have you been snapped out & about in the region? Check out this week's gallery of social pics - you never know who you might spot!

6.20am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Jennifer Aniston has revealed that she suffers from dyslexia. Wow, would never have known!?

6.18am LOCAL NEWS: A Liberal Party visit to the Illawarra on Thursday gave Premier Mike Baird a chance to kick Labor - but delivered little else for the region.

*Politics reporter Andrew Pearson has the story.

6.16am MOVIE NEWS: The furore over the Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side last year has continued. A spokesman for the film's distributor Madman says it will now go straight to DVD on February 18 rather than getting a wider cinema release.

6.14am A little animal funny for your Friday morning.

6.12am SPORT: Have you been watching the Australian Open? Some fantastic tennis skills on display. Sadly, Lleyton Hewitt lost last night to German Benjamin Becker. Bugger!

6.10am TIARA ALERT: A day before Prince Andrew is expected to address his sex-scandal allegations in a speech at Davos, his accuser is spilling more salacious details in court and demanding to "interview" him under oath. Oh dear.

6.08am Did you get along to the Eat Street Market last night? Looks like there were hundreds of people there. Great initiative, here's the Dagwood team enjoying the night!

6.06am And in national news, via the SMH:

*Child sexual abuse at the exclusive Sydney private school, Knox Grammar, will be publicly investigated by the Royal Commission next month.

*Sobbing as she relives the ordeal, former Lindt Cafe siege hostage Seline Win Pe reveals how the gunman told her she had only minutes to live. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Ms Win Pe says gunman Man Haron Monis looked her "straight in the eyes and said 'you have 15 minutes'".

*The second Bali Nine ringleader, Andrew Chan, has had his bid for clemency rejected and is expected to be executed with Myuran Sukumaran. Read more.

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

*The disused rail tunnel between Otford and Stanwell Park has been overgrown and covered in graffiti for years, but a small group of Helensburgh residents sees big potential in the heritage-listed track. Read more.

*The public perception of Wollongong City Council has improved dramatically since the dark days of 2008, when councillors were sacked amid the city's infamous corruption scandal.

*The Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating claims 29 foreign workers at the Manildra site at Bomaderry are being paid as little as $1.75 an hour. Read more.

6.02am Let's kick the morning off with the latest weather & traffic.

WEATHER We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 26 degrees. There is a slight chance of a shower. Expect similar conditions over the weekend - tomorrow will have a top of 26 but Sunday will be sweaty with a top of 29. Showers are developing on both days.

TRAFFIC All good on our roads & for the drive to Sydney.

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

6am Good morning Illawarra & happy Friday! TGIF, we made it to the end of the week! It's still very warm out there. What I'd do for a breeze!?

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