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

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8.30am That's it from us this morning. Have a fabulous Christmas & New Year. Thanks for sticking with us through 2014. See you in 2015! x

8.08am Police are looking for these two people from the Berkeley area. Can you help?

8.06am Don't forget today is the last edition of Morning Rush for 2014. We're having a well-deserved break but will be back in the new year.

8.04am SYDNEY: Four Sydney men have been jailed over the brutal bashing of a Perth man who owed them cash for drugs. Read more.

7.58am Morning! We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 21 degrees. All good on the roads & rail.

7.54am Looking for a summer movie? Here's some of the best.

7.52am SYDNEY SIEGE: Among the thousands of tributes made by members of the public to the victims of the Sydney siege, there was a very personal one.  "I love you mum," read the note. The simple message is from Sasha, the young daughter of Katrina Dawson, who was killed during the siege.

7.50am Happy birthday to all December 19 babies, including our very own court reporter Shannon Tonkin.

7.48am MOVIE NEWS: Hollywood has reacted angrily to Sony's plans to cancel screenings of film The Interview.

7.46am LOCAL NEWS: Balance and perspective are key to winning the HSC "marathon", according to Wollongong students who've just crossed the finish line.

*Reporter Andrew Pearson has the story.

7.44am A little Friday funny for you...

7.40am SYDNEY SIEGE: The partner of Tori Johnson, who was killed in Monday's siege, has spoken about his loss.

7.38am LOCAL NEWS: Demand for new residential apartments on the former Dwyers Holden site has been so strong that 80 per cent of the first release has already been sold off the plan.

*Property reporter Louise Turk has the story.

7.36am NATIONAL: Woolworths buyers have told suppliers their products could be pulled from shelves just days before Christmas if they refuse to fund the supermarket giant's new Cheap Cheap advertising campaign.

7.34am The recipe for the humble scone was the 7th most Googled recipe this year. Go figure.

7.32am My favourite headline on a story today: "crying baby leads to mid-flight brawl". Of course.

7.30am WORLD NEWS:  Russian president Vladimir Putin has attempted to assuage fears of economic collapse and promised rapid recovery as he faced hundreds of journalists during the worst financial crisis of his rule.

7.28am So, we've been discussing favourite Xmas carols in the newsroom. Mine is O Holy Night. Another colleague likes Rockin' Around the ChristmasTree. What's yours!?

7.24am Can you believe this time next week Christmas will be over!? Nuts.

7.22am STRANGE BUT TRUE: People, I have some bad news. It looks like McDonalds in Japan is going to RUN OUT OF FRIES. #stopthepresses

7.20am MOVIE NEWS: So, who will be the female lead for the next Pirates of the Carribean movie? Variety reports that Disney is testing various actresses over the next week including Lucy Boynton (Miss Potter), Gabriella Wilde (Endless Love), Jenna Thiam (The Returned), Kaya Scodelario (Maze Runner) and Alexandra Dowling (The Musketeers). Watch this space...

7.18am Have you checked out the new/old Beach Bar yet? Pepe's on the Beach had its official opening last night. Looks noice!

7.16am NATIONAL: More than 30 babies born to asylum seeker mothers in Australia will be able to stay in the mainland and not be processed on Nauru under a secret deal struck by crossbencher Ricky Muir. (SMH)

7.14am Anyone else SERIOUSLY OVER Christmas shopping?!

7.12am A collection of paintings by Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill has been auctioned off in the biggest ever sale of artwork by the statesman and accomplished painter. One work sold for $3.3 million - a record for a Churchill.

7.10am Surfer Sally Fitzgibbons was in town yesterday, signing copies of her new book. Sport reporter Mitch Jennings caught up with her.

7.08am NSW: The Baird government will go to the polls in March with the budget in surplus after Sydney's booming property market delivered the state's coffers a $1.8 billion windfall.

7.06am Ah, the Santa photo. Has anyone got any that rival this?! Santa looks displeased.

7.04am Alijah, Apollo, Booker & Briar Rose - just some of the slightly, um, unique celebrity baby names this year. Here's a few more.

7.02am LOCAL NEWS: 'Tis the season to be melancholy for many - with Lifeline South Coast just one support service gearing up for an onslaught of crisis calls.

*Reporter Lisa Wachsmuth has the story.

7am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kris & Bruce Jenner are officially divorced.

6.58am Morning! We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 21 degrees. All good on the roads & rail.

6.56am WORLD NEWS: A Missouri school district has apologised to the family of a blind student whose cane was replaced with a swimming pool noodle after he allegedly misbehaved on the bus.

6.54am BACHIE NEWS: Hold everything. This year's Bachelor Australia contestant Laurina is in line to be next year's Bacherlorette. ARRRRRR! How HILARIOUS would that be!?

6.52am Looking for something to do in the school holidays? Head to UOW's McKinnon Lawn for a bit of Shakespeare. Read all about it here.

6.50am If you haven't read this piece by reporter Cyd Mardon, do it. Now.

6.48am WORLD NEWS: The son of a former Australian High Commissioner's chauffeur may have been murdered by a VIP paedophile ring in London more than three decades ago, according to shocking claims being investigated by UK police. Read more.

6.46am SYDNEY SIEGE: This shot from Martin Place is just incredible - to see something beautiful come out of this tragedy is lovely.

6.44am It's the final day of uni graduations today from UOW. Congrats.

6.42am Don't forget the Bulli Foragers markets are doing a special twilight market on Sunday from 5pm to 10pm.

6.40am The animals at Symbio are already enjoying Christmas treats. Look at these marmosets with their presents!

6.38am SYDNEY SIEGE: Former prime minister John Howard has slammed a lone federal call to relax gun laws in the wake of the fatal Sydney siege as "simplistic and flawed". NSW Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm said yesterday denying people access to weapons had turned Australia into a "nation of victims". Read more.

6.36am LOCAL NEWS: The debate around Kiama Lighthouse & the ANZAC logo has continued - the president of the Kiama-Jamberoo RSL sub branch believes the lighthouse's popularity makes it an ideal point for communicating the Anzac message.

*Reporter Alex Arnold has the story.

6.34am Feeling a bit blue this morning? This might help. I bring you one Asian leopard kitten. Aww pretty kitty. Enjoy.

6.32am Chicken. The paleo diet. Kale. What else did we eat in 2014?

6.30am MUSIC NEWS: Sit down for this one and stop everything you're doing. There is going to be a Backstreet Boys documentary. Backstreet's back!

6.28am Have you entered your house in the Mercury's Christmas lights competition? Get in quick, entries close Monday. Register here.

6.26am NATIONAL: More than 90 per cent of Kevin Andrews' free relationship vouchers are still in want of a couple and a couch, even though the trial period for the scheme is almost half over. Read more.

6.24am OOPS: A woman thought a tray of white truffles were for free tasting. They weren't. One bite = $300.

6.22am TIARA ALERT: Kate, we get it - all girls have bad hair days, don't listen to that hubby of yours! I'm talking about this story - during a private visit to Centrepoint, a homeless charity, in London this week, William quipped to an apprentice hairdresser during a mentoring session that she should try styling Kate's "nightmare" hair. Ouch!

6.20am LOCAL NEWS: Break-ins, robberies, stolen cars and fires - when it came to crime, Kevin Santos was a jack of all trades but master of none.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the story.

6.18am A little Christmas funny for you.

6.16am MUSIC NEWS: Veteran hard rockers ACDC have reportedly sold out London's Wembley Stadium - capacity 72,500 - in less than one hour. The concert is planned for July 4 next year.

6.14am Don't forget the Hawks are playing at the WEC tonight. Good luck!

6.12am WORLD NEWS: Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped more than 100 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the remote northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, a security source and resident said yesterday.

6.10am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Reports are swirling that Cameron Diaz & Benji Madden are engaged! Could it be true?!

6.08am And in national news, via the SMH:

*Prime Minister Tony Abbott will consider a frontbench reshuffle over the weekend which could see the status of stood-aside Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos finally resolved.

*Cracks have emerged in the normally bipartisan area of national security policy after Bill Shorten warned an inquiry into the Martin Place siege would satisfy public concern only if it is transparent and open about mistakes made.

*About 11 per cent of Sydney residents have used ride-sharing services like UberX in the past six months, despite the fact they are illegal, the independent regulator says.

6.06am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong charity worker Kathleen McCormack will help shape the future of the Catholic Church, after a papal appointment to a new Vatican child protection body.

*Controversial radio journalist Derryn Hinch has issued a public apology to former Wollongong magistrate Darryl Pearce and his family, including  solicitor Brendan Pearce, for falsely stating he was the magistrate who released Man Haron Monis on bail.

*Kiama MP Gareth Ward says he "strongly supports" the current Killalea State Park Trust board and warns the Labor Party and Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba that he will call in the minister if they revive controversial plans to develop the park.

6.04am Let's kick things off with the latest weather & traffic.

WEATHER We're in for a partly cloudy day with a top of 21 degrees. Tomorrow will be similar with a top of 22 while the sun is set to come out on Sunday.

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

TRAINS All sweet on the South Coast line.

6am Good morning Illawarra & happy Friday! TGIF, we made it to the end of the week! This is the last edition of the Rush for 2014 - and what a year it's been!

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