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

8.56am That's it from us this morning. Tune in tomorrow for the TGIF edition of the Rush. Stay warm - beanies, scarves & thermal underwear encouraged!

8.54am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that parents in poorer areas are keeping their children inside due to fears about traffic and the safety of their neighbourhoods.

8.52am If you love sleeping animals (and let's face it - who doesn't?!), enjoy this video. It's lots of different animals dozing off. I plan to watch it several times today, particularly during any bad/boring moments.

8.50am NATIONAL: The NSW attorney-general says there’s no evidence that new bail laws introduced four weeks ago are influencing the treatment of offenders. Brad Hazzard says there’s nothing to suggest that bail is being granted more frequently or more leniently than under the old act. ‘‘If there is a need to make changes to bail then the government will do so,’’ Mr Hazzard said in a statement on Tuesday. (AAP)

8.48am Shellharbour City libraries' are running a "food for fines" amnesty in July. Great idea. People can donate food - in exchange, they'll have their library fines waived. Dig out those overdue books ASAP!

8.46am As a journalist, I'm a stickler for good grammar. As this hilarious post illustrates, good grammar is the difference between: "feeling your nuts" and "feeling you're nuts". Ha! Cheeky.

8.44am Lee & Me cafe is getting more cronuts. I repeat, more cronuts! Tomorrow from 11am & Thursday from 7.30am. Get in quick, these suckers sold out in 30 minutes last week!

8.42am Oh, the in-flight safety presentation. So boring. But not when it's "sass-filled"! Check out this video of a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines in the US. If they were done like this all the time, I'd always know where the location of my nearest emergency exit!

8.40am SPORT: State of Origin comprises 20 per cent of the game’s overall value and until an alternative is proposed that would increase revenue, the NRL should not consider altering the scheduling of Australia’s biggest sporting event. That is the view of Channel Nine boss David Gyngell, who rejected suggestions his network was inflexible on the scheduling.

8.38am Love to travel but never know where the "cool spots" are? Well, fear no more - we've got a great guide to the best neighbourhoods in popular cities. Check it out!

8.36am While we're freezing our butts off here in the Gong, Europeans are celebrating Midsummer. Including these delightful dogs!

8.34am STRANGE BUT TRUE: It appears that Wollongong is a town of steak-lovers with the Chunky Steak pie topping the list of favourites at Figtree's Pie Face store. The Chicken and Mushroom pie came in a close second. Wow, who knew!?

8.30am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong councillor Leigh Colacino & his wife Jennie are this year's ambassadors for Relay for Life. They helped launch the 2014 Wollongong Relay yesterday.

*Reporter Lisa Waschmuth has the full story here. Plus a lovely snap from photographer Greg Totman.

8.28am Miranda Kerr, a girl could really go off you. Could she be more gorgeous? Check out this pic of her from Instagram. Sigh. Those lips, those eyes! Grrr.

8.26am MOVIE NEWS: The first Batman film came out 25 years ago today - wow! How the franchise has changed in that time....

8.24am NATIONAL: The Abbott government says it accepts the UN’s decision to reject its bid to cut Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. The UN World Heritage Committee on Monday rejected an Australian application to wind back 74,000 hectares of protected forest added last year.The area was part of 170,000 hectares protected under Tasmania’s forest peace deal struck by former state and federal Labor governments.The government wanted the protection wound back so the area could be logged. (AAP)

8.22am CELEB GOSS ALERT: American Idol alum Kelly Clarkson has shown off her newborn baby girl River - and she's quite the scene stealer! Check out the pics here - she's going to be a heartbreaker.

8.20am I know Daffodil Day isn't until August 22 but I'm such a sucker for those cute Dougal bears. This year it's Fitness Dougal. Awwwww, adorable.

8.18am LOCAL SPORT: Fernhill have sacked coach Julio Miranda after the Foxes' lacklustre start to the season. They sit bottom of the Premier League, without a win from their opening 13 matches. Miranda has been replaced by experienced Premier League coach John Fleming.

8.16am Check out this great pic of the calm before the storm yesterday at Flagstaff Hill from snapper Kirk Gilmour. A little windy in this one, with more wind to come!

8.14am STRANGE BUT TRUE: An NZ teenager is taking his school suspension to the High Court in Wellington. The reason? He's refusing to cut his hair.

8.12am TV NEWS: Gordon Ramsay's reign of terror is over! His TV show Kitchen Nightmares is ceasing production. He's decided to "call it a day."

8.11am It is snowing in the Central Tablelands! Brrrrrr, it's cold!

8.10am People don't like sharks. It's well-known. But I've just found a list of 19 things more dangerous than sharks. No.3 - hot dogs, balloons & other choking hazards = 22 deaths per year in the US alone. Shocking!

8.08am LOCAL NEWS: Four men have been arrested in two separate incidents involving graffiti in the Illawarra at the weekend.

*Here's the full story from emergency services reporter Dominic Geiger.

8.06am SPORT - World Cup: Super-subs Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay sank Chile with two late goals Monday as the Netherlands won 2-0 to top World Cup Group B and likely avoid a clash with Brazil.

8.04am Our friends at Pulse 94.1FM rely on community support and donations to stay on-air. Call 4228 8941 to help.

8.02am MOVIE NEWS: The musical Jersey Boys has been made into a film! Can't wait to see it. Here's a little preview - it hits theatres next week.

8am Good morning! Welcome if you're just joining us. Today is going to be windy. Very windy. We're in for a top of 15 degrees. All fine on our roads & for the drive to Syd. Don't forget that track work on the South Coast line.

7.58am Wollongong's Lower East cafe is pouring coffee. And it looks good. Do they deliver!?

7.56am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Nicole Ritchie & the kids are in town! The trio flew into Sydney this morning to meet up with dad Joel Madden. And how sweet is little Harlow in her purple outfit! So cute!

7.54am TV NEWS: Sunrise's executive producer Michael Pell has hosed down any suggestion of criticism by Coldplay's lead vocalist Chris MartinMartin mentioned the Seven Network breakfast show while recording songs for the Nine Network's The Voice on Friday night in Sydney. He told The Voice crowd: "I think we played Sunrise this morning and we were playing in a two-metre box and had no audience, so this is sort of like redemption for us." Ouch!

7.52am Have you got your tickets to Legally Blonde: the Musical yet? Some of the cast will be on i98FM this morning, chatting about the show! Grab your tickets quick - it's on at the WEC on July 4 & 5. Tickets available through Ticketek.

7.50am Have you checked out the new Two Doors Up cafe in Fairy Meadow? It's awesome! Great menu, nice staff & yummy coffee. Counting the days until they get their liquor license approved!

7.48am I found another funny vegetable post, yes! Check out these overly dramatic capsicums - too funny!

7.46am NATIONAL: Britain's watchdog on terrorism laws has urged the federal government to reconsider its controversial plan to abolish Australia's own independent monitor on national security legislation. Read more here.

7.44am We're pretty proud of our little city here at the Merc. So we love this We are Wollongong video. Great to see so many of our sites & history on show! Watch below - it's only had 5000 hits, let's get it to 10,000.

7.42am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Sting’s children cannot expect to inherit his multimillion-pound wealth. The 62-year-old musician, who is estimated to be worth £180m ($327m) and has three sons and three daughters, said he did not want "to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses round their necks". (SMH)

7.40am LOCAL NEWS: A section of Picton Road had its speed limit slashed yesterday. The speed reduction is in place between Almond Street and Pembroke Parade and was put in place after an RMS review.

*Reporter Glen Humphries has the full story.

7.39am BREAKING: There has been explosion in a cafe in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The cafe was packed with World Cup spectators.

7.38am TV NEWS: The final season of True Blood has kicked off. *SPOILER ALERT* they've already killed off a favourite character! Sheesh, no time wasting for these vamps.

7.36am It's cold outside, meaning all we want to do is stay inside & eat. Oh wait, maybe that's just me. Anywho, if you're feeling so inclined, here's a delish recipe for a five-spice bread-and-butter pudding. Mmmmmmmm.

7.34am LOCAL SPORT: South Coast Wolves captain Jacob Timpano has urged Football Federation Australia to ensure the Illawarra is the base for its next expansion move, or risk the region facing elite oblivion for decades to come.

7.32am WORLD NEWS: Investigators looking into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have concluded the plane was probably not seriously damaged and remained in controlled flight until it ran out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean.

7.30am Looking for something to do this weekend? The Phoenix Theatre presents Cabared, a good old-fashioned burlesque show. It's on Saturday from 8pm. Tickets available on the theatre's website.

7.28am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kristen Bell is pregnant! The Veronica Mars star and husband Dax Shepard are set to give their little girl Lincoln a sibling.

7.27am HEALTH: Doctors are set to vote on whether to push for a ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after the year 2000 in an attempt to protect the next generation of children from the deadly effects of smoking.

7.26am STRANGE BUT TRUE: During the World Cup clash between the US & Portugal, a man dressed as Teddy Roosevelt was spotted in the stands. The best.

7.24am People love bacon. That is all. No, not really. The SMH Good Food guide has found Australia's best bacon. And it's at ...drum roll please ... Pialligo Estate Smokehouse in Canberra. Run, do not walk, to the bacon!

7.22am NATIONAL: A truck driver and another man have died in separate accidents on NSW roads overnight. A 66-year old from Queensland died when his pantech truck left the Pacific Highway north of Kempsey and hit a tree about 11pm yesterday, police said. Another man died about 11.30pm yesterday when his car crashed at Binalong, about 100km west of Goulburn. (AAP)

7.20am Ever wanted to make sourdough but just aren't sure how? Well, never fear! Wild Rumpus is offering a bread-making course this Sunday. Read below for details.

7.18am TV NEWS: The Voice Kids proved a hit by beating reality renovation show House Rules, but there's worrying signs for the Nine Network drama House Husbands. The series could only manage 12th on OzTAM's overnight ratings with 765,000 viewers. It was 160,000 fewer viewers than tuned-in last Monday night. Uh-oh!

7.16am LOCAL NEWS: Almost 90 per cent of Catholic schools in the Wollongong diocese have voted to strike in July to draw attention to their negotiations with the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations. Teachers will stop work & gather in Wollongong for three hours on July 17.

*Education reporter Kate Walsh has the full report here.

7.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Katy Perry has met Hillary Clinton! Yep, Katy picked up a copy of Hil's new book & asked if she could write her campaign theme song. Bless!

7.12am MUSIC NEWS: Tickets for Miley Cyrus' Aussie tour went on-sale yesterday. Miley is bringing her BANGERZ TOUR down under in October. 

7.10am WORLD NEWS: An Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is out of control and requires massive resources from governments and aid agencies to prevent it spreading further, medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said on Monday.

7.08am So, there are some seriously freaky kids' toys out there. Check out this gallery of weird & whacky play things - the "shave my baby" doll is a personal favourite, followed closely by "giving birth" Barbie.

7.06am Let it Go from Frozen is literally taking over the world. Now, Pearl Jam has covered it. Check it out - the rockers played the track during a concert in Italy. I kind of like it!

7.04am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Oh Lindsay Lohan. The actress allegedly ran out of a dressing room at London department store Selfridges ... in the nude. According to a witness, she "laughed maniacally" as she ran around the store in the buff. Crazy town!

7.02am NATIONAL: The Salvation Army has denied sexual abuse was widespread in the organisation, despite more than 100 survivors coming forward with horrendous tales of suffering allegedly endured at the hands of officers. The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong will be under the microscope at the commission today.

7am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Frisbee has been deemed "too dangerous" to play with dogs. Yep, frisbee. The Kennel Club in the UK has backed a decision by a country dog show to ban Frisbee catching on the grounds that it puts pets in danger of injury. WHA?!

6.58am Good morning! Welcome if you're just joining us. Today is going to be windy. Very windy. We're in for a top of 15 degrees. All fine on our roads. There is a truck breakdown on General Holmes Drive @ Mascot, affecting one northbound lane, otherwise all good for the drive to Syd. Don't forget that track work on the South Coast line.

6.56am Paul Hogan aka Crocodile Dundee is coming to Wollongong! Hoges will perform a one-man show at the Town Hall on July 26.

6.54am NATIONAL: Ethics lessons are set to be introduced to kindergarten students for the first time next month. NB surely kindy kids are too young for moral reasoning & ethical thinking? Some can't even tie their shoes!

6.52am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong councillors voiced resounding support for a motion urging the federal government to abandon its proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

*Council reporter Kate McIlwain has the full story from last night's meeting here.

6.50am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A successful UK author and marriage expert has revealed the key to making your marriage work – flirt with other people, lead independent lives & keep yourself fit and attractive. Sounds ideal ... not.

6.48am: MUSIC NEWS: AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson expects the band to tour in 2015. But there is no word how ailing founder Malcolm Young would be involved, if at all. Great news for Acca Dacca fans (including the fiancee!)

6.46am TIARA ALERT: Prince Harry has visited a hospital in Brazil, watching patients play wheelchair basketball on day one of his tour of South America.

6.44am LOCAL SPORT: The Rotnei Clarke era has officially ended at the Wollongong Hawks. Despite the Hawks’ best efforts to keep the 2013-14 NBL MVP at the club, Clarke has accepted an offer to play with Okapi Aalstar in Belgium’s national league. NB What a loss, he's a GREAT player!

6.42am Looking for something to do with the kids these school holidays? Wollongong Council has some great offerings - check them out here.

6.40am HEALTH:  Lunch-box snacks fruit strings, oaty slices & berry frugos are branded "Nice and Natural", "Mother Earth" and "Go Natural", but health star ratings for the foods show they are far from healthy, scoring just one to two stars.

6.38am: Wollongong's Three Chimneys has some seriously awesome live music. Head to the venue from Thursday to Sunday for some cool tunes.

6.36am STRANGE BUT TRUE: What was meant to be a funny dare turned into an utter embarrassment for an American exchange student, who found himself trapped in a giant stone vagina in Germany. Yep, you read right. Don’t ask.

6.34am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong Hospital's Dry July ambassadors are so excited about this year's campaign that they're shouting their message from the rooftops. GM Nicole Sheppard and director of cancer services Anthony Arnold were among a group of staff who made their way to the top of the hospital's $106 million redevelopment site yesterday to launch the fund-raiser.

*Reporter Lisa Waschmuth has the full story. NB If you've overindulged, it's not too late to sign up for Dry July!

6.32am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Joan Rivers v Kristen Stewart? That's the latest stoush - Joan made some scathing comments about Kristen in her new book & the actress has since threatened to sue. Uh-oh!

6.30am WORLD NEWS: A Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan last month for apostasy - or renunciation of her faith - was released yesterday after her conviction was overturned by Khartoum's appeal court.

6.28am NATIONAL: Clive Palmer's wealth is set to tumble by a cool $1 billion, just as his political influence and power peaks. Mr Palmer has made his fortune in resources and will retain his billionaire status but his wealth, measured at $2.2 billion a year ago will be considerably smaller when the BRW Rich List is published on Friday. NB Poor Clive, my heart bleeds!

6.26am Michael Jackson's son Prince is following in his late father's footsteps & heading into show biz. He's revealed he'd like to be a director. Good on him!

6.24am I spotted this pic over the weekend & thought it was v cute - what a gorgeous way to tell a little girl she's going to Disneyland!

6.23am MUSIC NEWS: Bob Dylan, one of the most influential musicians of all time, will be performing at the Sydney Opera House on September 7. Sign up for pre-sale tickets here

6.22am SPORT: Samantha Stosur has been knocked out in the first round at Wimbledon. Bummer!

6.20am Migaloo has been spotted! The rare white whale was seen on the mid North Coast on Saturday morning - did we miss him!?

6.18am LOCAL NEWS: At the Happiness Cycle event at Beaton Park's Snakepit this Thursday, Illawarra kids will be taught how to assemble a BMX, fixed gear or mountain bike on the day, then get to ride it home. The program is about getting kids into healthy living patterns, with a mobile app for users to track their progress and set goals. 

6.16am NATIONAL: Employers could force staff to take holidays during close-down periods such as Christmas, direct workers with "excessive" leave to take time off, or cash out their leave entitlements, if submissions by business groups to the Fair Work Commission are adopted.

6.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: I know, I know I promised less Kardashian stuff BUT - this pic of North West at her first birthday party with her parents is pretty cute. She's quite the adorable little girl!

6.13am A little English lesson for you this morning. Clinomania = an excessive desire to stay in bed. Anyone else feeling this today?!

6.12am Remember the "hot felon" who broke the internet with his prettiness? Well, he has a wife. And she ain't happy with all the attention he's getting. Oh dear.

6.10am WORLD NEWS: Australian journalist Peter Greste and his two al-Jazeera colleagues have been found guilty by an Egyptian court and sentenced to seven years in prison for producing false news to defame Egypt.

6.08am SPORT - World Cup: Look away NOW if you taped the Socceroos game - if not, It's bad - the boys were defeated by Spain 3-0 this morning.

6.06am And in national news (courtesy of the SMH):

*The production of all ABC television shows, except news and current affairs, would be outsourced under radical proposals put forward by the Abbott’s cost-cutting review of the national broadcaster.

*Sydney Airport will rely on its parallel north-south runways for almost all of its flying hours by the end of the decade, meaning more flights over suburbs north and south of the airport.

*The granting of bail to both a former bikie boss accused of an infamous public murder and a father who allegedly allowed his 12-year-old to have sex with a 26-year-old has dramatically intensified debate over the state’s new bail laws.

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

*Parents are outraged a Wollongong swim school, which has been open for more than 45 years, will be forced to close after the council received a complaint about parking outside the complex.

*A former Illawarra school teacher on trial for child sex offences interfered with two young girls while his own children were in the same room, a jury has heard.

*Public school principals will have greater ability to deal with underperforming teachers when an updated teacher improvement program is introduced in NSW schools next term.

*Some of Australia's most senior Catholic leaders - as well as key Wollongong church figures - will appear before the royal commission into child sexual abuse's investigation into Wollongong's Catholic Diocese over the next two weeks.

6.02am Let's kick off with all the latest weather & traffic - and an update on that wind!

WEATHER People, it's going to be windy. Very windy. It will be mostly sunny but expect strong to gale-force northwesterly winds, decreasing tonight. We're in for a top of 15 degrees. Right now, it's 11 degrees in Bellambi but with that wind chill it feels like -1. RUG UP!

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

TRAINS There is track work on the South Coast line. Buses are replacing trains between Bomaderry and Oak Flats. Some buses will start from or continue to Dapto/Wollongong.

6am Good morning Illawarra & holy cold day! My goodness, it is chilly out there! Batten down the hatches - we're in for a whole lot of wind. Stay with your host, Emma Spillett, this morning for all the latest news etc.

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